Scientists draw distinctions between malaria parasites in Amazon region

Same malaria parasite infects humans and monkeys in Amazon region | Courtesy of wikipedia.org
Scientists in Tubingen recently found evidence that suggests even though there are two kinds of malaria parasites, only one infects several host species in the Amazon region.

These tropical medicine experts studied malaria parasites from the Plasmodium brasilianum species, also called quartan plasmodia, which they found in Yanomami indigenous people living on the border that runs between Brazil and Venezuela. In the past, these kinds of parasites were only found in monkeys. These parasites cause fever outbreaks within four days, and the infection can cause chronic illnesses and health complications.

Researchers have long theorized that quartan parasites, which cause Plasmodium malaraiae malaria in humans, may be identical with the plasmodia within Plasmodium brasilianum. Now, with collaboration between scientists in Venezuela and the U.S., researchers have studied the genetics behind these parasites. This allows them to determine whether the plasmodia in humans or monkeys infected in the Amazon region have the same genetics.

Neither the form nor the configuration of Plasmodium malariae (from humans) or Plasmodium brasilianum (from monkeys) can be identified as distinctive. Further, plasmodia can only be transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes; there is no way for malaria parasites to transmit themselves from one person or monkey to another.

Further details are available in the specialist journal EBioMedicine.

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