Scientists Report Original Source Of Malaria

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aswini's picture
Scientists Report Original Source Of Malaria

Scientists Report Original Source Of Malaria

Researchers have identified what they believe is the original source of malignant malaria: a parasite found in chimpanzees in equatorial Africa.

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R Bishop
R Bishop's picture
It should be clarified this

It should be clarified this article is about the emergence of P. falciparum, one of the more deadly strains for humans. The authors believe that P. falciparum strains all derived from a single infectious bite of a mutated strain of chimpanzee malaria, P. reichenowi. That mutation allowed this strain to infect a new host, humans, that was previously resistant to chimpanzee malaria.  Why did this happen?

One the ways we differ genetically from chimpanzees is we carry and inactive gene called CMAH that changes the way we cap our terminal glycan structures with a sugar called sialic acid. These glycans decorate the surface of our cells like sign posts that parasites such as malaria use to "know" what cells to invade. I like to think of it like a key in a lock.  If that key is not perfectly cut it wont fit in the lock.  So a mutation in that single parasite allowed the key to fit, because our own mutation changed the chemical structure of our sialic acids just slightly enough. Natural selection at its finest.

Thanks for the heads up on this paper

The Bishop