Chimpanzees appear to be the source of malaria in humans, according to a study released Tuesday.
Researchers studied malaria in chimps in Cameroon and Ivory Coast and concluded that the parasite that causes malaria in humans likely developed from the parasite that causes malaria in chimps, the Associated Press reported. It had been believed the two parasites developed from a common origin.
"We now know that malaria, while at least thousands of years old, did not originate in humans but rather was introduced into our species, presumably by the bite of a mosquito that had previously fed on a chimpanzee," said Dr. Nathan D. Wolfe of Stanford University and the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative.
He told the AP that learning more about the chimp parasite may lead to better treatments for malaria in humans, or even a vaccine.
The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Malaria kills a million people worldwide each year.