Monkeys a malaria reservoir in Asia

A STUDY involving wild macaques in Borneo has confirmed monkeys act as a “reservoir” for a strain of the malaria parasite that is a major source of human disease across South-East Asia.

Plasmodium knowlesi is the most recently identified strain of malaria parasites known to infect humans.

Professor Balbir Singh at the Malaria Research Centre, University Malaysia Sarawak, compared blood from 108 wild macaques with samples from patients with P. knowlesi malaria.

“Our findings strongly indicate that P. knowlesi is a zoonosis in this area… passed by mosquitoes from infected monkeys to humans, with monkeys acting as a reservoir host,” he said.

As tree loss threatens monkey habitats, the parasite’s preferred host may switch to humans.

PLoS Pathogens 2011, online 7 April