News of the WeekPARASITOLOGY

Origin of Most Deadly Human Malaria Comes Out of the Mist

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Science  24 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5999, pp. 1586-1587
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5999.1586

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In the search for the origin of the parasite that causes the most severe malaria in humans, researchers have implicated relatives in a variety of species. Last year, new evidence appeared to have solved the mystery: Chimpanzees, it seemed clear, harbored the ancestor to human Plasmodium falciparum, which causes raging fevers in a few hundred million people each year, killing about 1 million. But now a new study of DNA plucked from the feces of a huge number of African apes has led the small but impassioned malaria origins field to do a double take, as it appears that the closest relative to human P. falciparum is a parasite found only in gorillas.