[Representational Image]Reuters/Gareth Watkins

An Indian scientist has claimed that malaria drug artemisinin, the discovery of which earned a Chinese scientist the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year, has roots in India.

Chinese scientist Youyou Tu had won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of artemisinin, a compound obtained from medicinal plant "Artemisia annua" – a familiar herb in Chinese traditional medicine used in malaria treatment.

In his Facebook post dated 7 October, Sunil Kumar Verma, a Hyderabad-based senior scientist has said that artemisinin -- a form of artemisin -- was stated in scientific literature published more than 100 years ago.

In order to emphasise his claim, Verma posted a snapshot of "Indian Medicinal Plants," a book that was published by Lieutenant Colonel KR Kirtikar and Major BD Basu in 1918. It reportedly records the benefits of artemisin to cure "intermittent and remittent fever" that was used in malaria therapy till 1880. 

Verma, who is a former Commonwealth scholar and a PhD from Oxford University, said in the post that Artemisia species that is found in India is known as "Ajavayan (ajwain)", an "integral part of our home kitchen." He further said that if this information is recorded in a book titled "Indian Medicinal Plants" and written a 100 years before, then "how come artemisin became a traditional Chinese medicine and not Indian traditional medicine?"

"Even if it was used in China too (other than India) as traditional medicine for the treatment of intermittent fever (malaria), then the credit for this knowledge to the use of artemisin and its purification should be given to both India and China and not China alone," Verma added in his post.

The post has received more than 600 shares on Facebook and other scientists have also participated in the debate.