From: Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author, ARKive.org , More from this Affiliate
Published April 7, 2013 07:55 AM

World Health Day

World Health Day, celebrated each year on the 7th of April, marks the founding, in 1948, of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and highlights a priority area of public health concern. Here at ARKive, we decided to find out more about the links between species and human health, and show you just how important the conservation of biodiversity is to the advancement of medical science.

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Species and medicine:

When was the last time you had a headache and reached for some aspirin to relieve the pain and pressure? Or perhaps you’ve had a bacterial chest infection over the cold, harsh winter and were prescribed some antibiotics to get rid of it? Well, you have the wonderful plant and fungal kingdoms to thank for your recovery.

Did you know?

The antibiotic penicillin was discovered in a species of Penicillium soil fungus, while aspirin, an anti-inflammatory drug used to relieve minor aches and pains, was derived from a compound found in the bark of willow trees.

The Madagascar periwinkle, also known as the rosy periwinkle, might sound like a pink marine mollusc, but it is, in fact, a very special plant species. Traditionally, the Madagascar periwinkle was used by healers to treat diabetes, but more recently it has provided the basis for the production of two incredibly important cancer-fighting drugs. One of these has helped increased the chance of surviving childhood leukaemia from just 10% to 95%. Plants are pretty awesome!

Vinca flower via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate ARKive.

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