Deadliest form of malaria is younger than previously believed

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Research could determine how parasite became resistant to anti-malarial drugs

Malaria kills more people than any other communicable disease except for tuberculosis. It is the world’s most serious parasitic tropical disease, resulting in 1 million to 3 million deaths annually. The most lethal form of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, accounts for the majority of infections, 200 million to 300 million annually. Now researchers from the Harvard-Oxford Malaria Genome Diversity Project have linked the origin of the P.falciparum parasite to a single ancestor of more recent origin than previously thought. The findings, achieved through studying the genome sequence of P. falciparum, could help explain how malaria spread throughout the human population over the past several thousand years. They could also help identify the source of the variety of genetic mutations that makes P. falciparum resistant to anti-malarial drugs. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.