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article imageChimps contract malaria at the same rate as people

By Tim Sandle     Jun 3, 2013 in Environment
Chimpanzees have been studied for the first time relation to the incidences of malaria. The conclusion is that chimps can contract malaria just as easily as people and have similar survival rates if untreated.
In order to investigate how prevalent malaria is among chimpanzees and whether there are any patterns within the population, researchers based in Germany undertook the first major study of chimpanzees and the malaria parasite in Africa.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by protists (a type of microorganism). Malaria begins with a bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever and headache, which in severe cases can progress to coma or death.
For the study, the researchers collected 141 faecal samples from seven female and twelve male wild chimpanzees from Taï National Park, Cote d'Ivoire. The researchers then extracted DNA from the fecal samples, analyzed it and so identified the malaria parasite-positive samples. The outcome was that every chimpanzee was found to be positive for the malaria parasite.
There were no differences in terms of the age, sex or condition of the chimpanzees. This led the researchers to conclude that the tendency to contract malaria for a chimpanzee was the same as that for a human.
Other data suggests that malaria is responsible for the loss of around ten per cent of the chimpanzee population each year, particularly among young chimps. However, the lower deaths among adults suggest that, like people, chimpanzees can develop a degree of immunity against the parasite.
The research was undertaken by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Robert Koch-Institute. The findings have been published in the journal Biology Letters. The paper is titled “Age-related effects on malaria parasite infection in wild chimpanzees.”
More about Chimps, Chimpanzee, Malaria, Africa, Parasite
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