May 29, 2015
Two genetically distinct Plasmodium knowlesi parasite subpopulations associated with different monkey host species in Malaysia are causing malaria in humans, raising the possibility that hybridization could lead to the creation of a more virulent strain with enhanced transmission, according to research published in PLoS Pathogens.
“We were very surprised to find that knowlesi malaria is really two separate zoonoses going on at the same time,” David J. Conway, PhD, professor of biology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a press release. “There is a lot of genetic diversity within each of the parasite types, but the high level of divergence between them indicates they are probably different subspecies being transmitted separately within the same areas. If zoonotic transmission continues to be common, it becomes more likely that the two types may hybridize genetically, leading to new possibilities for parasite adaptation to humans or additional mosquito vectors.”