Artesunate is a water-soluble, semi-synthetic derivative of the sesquiterpine lactone artemisinin with anti-malarial, anti-shistosomiasis, antiviral, and potential anti-neoplastic activities. Upon hydrolysis of artesunate's active endoperoxide bridge moiety by liberated heme in parasite-infected red blood cells, reactive oxygen species and carbon-centered radicals form, which have been shown to damage and kill parasitic organisms. Additionally, in vitro studies demonstrate that this agent induces dna breakage in a dose-dependent manner. Artesunate has also been shown to stimulate cell differentiation, arrest the cell cycle in the g1 and g2m phases, inhibit cell proliferation, and induce apoptosis through mitochondrial and caspase signaling pathways. Artemisinin is isolated from the plant artemisia annua.
Artesunate is part of the artemisinin group of drugs that treat malaria. It is a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin that is water-soluble and may therefore be given by injection.