New hope for a cure for one of mankind's deadliest diseases has sprung up after an international group of researchers pinpointed chimpanzees native to equatorial Africa as being the original source of malaria.
Scientists from the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative made the announcement after discovering several new parasites, which show that malaria jumped from animals to humans in much the same way that HIV, SARS and swine flu originated.
Global Viral Forecasting Initiative and Stanford University senior author Nathan Wolfe said that it is now clear that malaria did not originate in humans but was introduced into the species, presumably by the bite of a mosquito that had previously fed on a chimpanzee.
"The discovery shows that ancient diseases can originate in the same way that modern pandemics do, by jumping from animals to humans," Wolfe said.
The newly discovered parasites indicate that there is a much broader range of close relatives to the human parasite than previously thought, a revelation that could provide new insights into drug development or possibly provide a vaccine.
"It is now clear that a new disease that successfully jumps from an animal to a human can last not just for decades, but millennia," Wolfe said.
"This makes the task of stopping future disease spillovers from animals to humans vital for many generations to come."
Around 500 million cases of malaria are reported worldwide ever year, accounting for approximately 1 million deaths each year, most of which are children.
By Daniel Garrun.