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Scientists Discover Origin of Malaria
Date:8/3/2009

Discovery Could Lead to Development of New Treatments, Prevent Future Plagues

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today scientists reported that they have discovered the origin of malaria, one of the deadliest diseases of humanity. Chimpanzees, native to equatorial Africa, have been identified as the original source of the parasite that likely moved from them to humans via mosquitoes.

An international group of researchers, including senior author Nathan Wolfe, Ph.D., of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative and Stanford University, made the discovery, published in the Aug. 3 2009 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by identifying several new parasites from chimpanzees. The newly discovered parasites show that malaria jumped from animals to humans, much the way that HIV, SARS and swine flu originated.

"This discovery shows that ancient diseases, such as malaria, can originate in the same way that modern pandemics do, namely by jumping from animals to humans" Wolfe said. "We now know that malaria, while at least thousands of years old, did not originate in humans but rather was introduced into our species, presumably by the bite of a mosquito that had previously fed on a chimpanzee."

Until now, malaria's origin had been unclear. Although chimpanzees were known to harbor a parasite, called Plasmodium reichenowi, that is closely related to the dominant human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, most scientists assumed incorrectly that these parasites had co-existed separately in human and chimpanzee ancestors for the last 5 million years.

The newly discovered parasites not only demonstrate how malaria originated, but represent potentially powerful tools for developing vaccines and treatments against this deadly scourge. Discovery of these parasites indicates that there is a much br
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SOURCE Global Viral Forecasting Initiative
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