加州大學爾灣分校的生物學家阿亞拉(Francisco Ayala)19日發表的共同研究報告證實了最近他與同儕獲得的新發現；即惡性瘧原蟲(Plasmodium falciparum)引起的人類惡性瘧疾，起源於在赤道非洲黑猩猩身上發現的親緣相近的寄生蟲。
The parasite that causes malaria in humans has been found in gorillas, along with two new species of malaria parasites, reports a study by French and American scientists.
Co-authored by University of California, Irvine biologist Francisco Ayala, the study, published Tuesday, confirms a recent discovery by Ayala and colleagues that human malignant malaria, caused by Plasmodium falciparum, originated from a closely related parasite found in chimpanzees in equatorial Africa.
Malignant malaria is an infectious disease that puts the sick person through cycles of chills, fever, and sweating. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of a female anopheles mosquito infected with P. falciparum.
Malaria caused by this parasite is a leading cause of death and disease globally, particularly among young children. P. falciparum is responsible for 85 percent of malignant malaria infections in humans and nearly all deaths from the disease.
The researchers cautioned that increased contact between primates and humans, mostly due to logging and deforestation, creates a greater risk of new parasites being transmitted to humans.
Increased contact also could further jeopardize endangered ape populations by spreading diseases to them.
Finding P. falciparum in gorillas also complicates the challenge of eradicating malaria, the researchers said.
The discovery could aid the development of a vaccine for malaria, which each year causes two million infant deaths and sickens about 500 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
The discovery also furthers understanding of how infectious diseases such as HIV, SARS, and avian and swine flu can be transmitted to humans from animals.
Simultaneously, a group of Australian researchers has published a study identifying a group of proteins that could form the basis of an effective vaccine against malaria.
"As well as presenting an enormous health burden, malaria also has a major impact on social and economic development in countries where the disease is endemic," Dr. Beeson said.