Malaria in humans might have come from Gorillas

Malaria in humans might have come from GorillasIt was earlier believed that the species responsible for most cases of the disease in humans, Plasmodium falciparum, originated in chimpanzees but a wide-ranging study of malaria parasites in apes suggests that it was in gorillas.

It was also found out that just once the parasite may have made the jump between species.

Researchers have stated that tackling the disease would be much easier if the parasite's origin is understood.

Scientists believed until now that P. falciparum 's closest relative was P. reichenowi, a parasite of chimpanzees but studies limited it to a few apes, many of them from captive populations.

It could not be figured out if wild populations were acting as natural reservoirs for Plasmodium species.

Faecal samples from specimen banks built up to investigate the evolution of HIV were taken for the latest study, led by Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

It included 803 from gorillas, 1,827 from chimpanzees, and 107 from bonobos. Looking particularly at DNA from mitochondria, the cells' energy factories, they then sequenced the Plasmodium DNA found in the samples.

Among chimpanzees and western gorillas, high levels of malarial infection were found. But among eastern gorillas or bonobos, no infection could be found.