African origin of the malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax. Plasmodium vivax is the leading cause of human malaria in Asia and Latin America but is absent from most of central Africa due to the near fixation of a mutation that inhibits the expression of its receptor, the Duffy antigen, on human erythrocytes. The emergence of this protective allele is not understood because P. vivax is believed to have originated in Asia. Here we show, using a non-invasive approach, that wild chimpanzees and gorillas throughout central Africa are endemically infected with parasites that are closely related to human P. vivax.
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