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Malaria 'originated in chimps'

5th August 2009

Chimpanzees have been identified as the original source of malaria, according to a group of US researchers.

Scientists from the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) believe that the parasite could have originated as recently as 5,000 years ago in equatorial Africa.

Co-author of the study UC Irvine biologist Francisco Ayala suggested that once transmitted to humans 'it became very severe very quickly'.

He said: 'The disease in humans has become resistant to many drugs. It's my hope that our discovery will bring us closer to making a vaccine.'

The parasite is thought to have passed between species when humans began to encroach on the chimpanzee habitats, bringing humans into close contact with the primates.

Mr Ayala and colleagues' findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings are published after a team of scientists from the University of Manchester announced the discovery of a new strain of HIV, thought to have originated in gorillas.

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