|Plasmodium infected red blood cell|
In this article in PNAS, Prugnolle et al. discuss the possible origins of malaria, based a survey of the diversity of malarial parasites in several different monkey species in Central Africa. They detected P. falciparum (the human killer) for the first time in monkeys. This strain appears to be specific to non-human primates. This opens up the possibility for a monkey source for human malaria, instead of the gorilla source which had been suggested by other workers. This study is part of a fascinating recent revolution in primatology, involving the study of parasites from a genetic perspective. I will take up that topic in a future post.