News of the WeekPARASITOLOGY

Key Malaria Parasite Likely Evolved From Chimp Version

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Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 663
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_663a

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For centuries, the origin of the main parasite that causes malaria in humans has remained murkier than the stagnant water loved by the mosquitoes that transmit the killer pathogen. Now an international research team has uncovered compelling evidence that the parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, evolved from a relative called P. reichenowi that infects chimpanzees. The data support a provocative theory that as human red blood cells evolved a way to dodge P. reichenowi, they became highly vulnerable to P. falciparum.