Close Window
Monkey Malaria Now Infecting Humans November 7, 2014
Pig-tailed macaque
Pig-tailed macaque, one of two species carrying a new potent malaria parasite now infecting humans.
An emerging monkey-borne parasite spreading across Southeast Asia was released into the human population through unbridled deforestation in recent decades, primarily from expanding palm oil plantations and demand for timber.

Plasmodium knowlesi malaria has long been endemic among the long-tailed and pig-tailed macaque populations of Malaysia and nearby countries.

It remained isolated from the human population by dense tropical rain forest habitats of the macaques until deforestation cleared the forests, and new roads that were built during the process allowed infected humans to carry the parasite elsewhere.

Research presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene`s annual meeting revealed that Plasmodium knowlesi malaria is now the leading cause of malaria hospitalizations in Malaysia.

While the parasite causes only mild symptoms in macaques, it has become the fastest-replicating malaria parasite in humans, multiplying every 24 hours in the blood.

The research concludes that Plasmodium knowlesi has joined AIDS and Ebola as emerging or re-emerging dangerous diseases being passed to humans as more and more layers of once-isolated tropical forest are ravaged by human development.

Photo: File