-C. Paula de los Angeles
Last week, researchers at the Research Institute for Development in Montpellier, France, and the International Center of Medical Research in Franceville, Gabon, discovered a new species of the malaria parasite, and was named Plasmodium gaboni, after closely related Plasmodium falciparum. In order to find this new species, researchers analyzed the blood of 17 chimpanzees, 2 of which had the parasite.
There has been only one other species of malaria parasite resembling Plasmodium falciparum found in primates,Plasmodium reichenowi in apes, so hopefully this new discovery will detail the evolution of malaria in humans and apes, and chimpanzees, their common ancestor.
A major concern of the researchers was the risk of chimpanzee-to-human transmission because of the interaction of chimpanzees and humans in these villages (as pets), as well as the recent jump of a version of the malaria parasite in macaques to humans.
This article brings to light the importance of evolutionary histories of all animals and insects, including parasites. Furthermore, it raises the concern of one of the most dangerous evolutionary adaptations of all, changing hosts. This reminded me of an idea brought up in a lunch we had this weekend with a respect scientist, that it was parasitism that mainly drove evolution. Interesting idea that we can see at work here...
primary article link here: http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.ppat.1000446
news article link here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/health/02glob.html?scp=2&sq=malaria&st=cse