The parasite that causes malignant malaria in humans has been found in gorillas by scientists from France, Cameroon, Gabon and the US.
To reach the conclusion, researchers analysed faeces from wild gorillas in Cameroon and blood samples from a captive animal from Gabon, reports The BBC.
The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
"Sampling malaria parasites from apes in the wild has until now been very difficult", said Dr Francisco Ayala from the University of California, Irvine.
DNA evidence of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malignant malaria in humans, was found in faecal samples from two gorilla subspecies.
Dr Ayala said of the parasite: "Even if it were eradicated in humans we would still have the problem that it's present in apes and therefore they would be a reservoir for the disease.
"It's not clear what we can do with respect to this problem other than trying to decrease contact."