The spurt of malaria in species as diverse as humans, birds, and mice occurred when the species-specific parasite strains learnt to switch hosts, according to a breakthrough study by researchers at Osaka University in Japan.
The research team led by Toshiyuki Hayakawa analysed the parasite's mitochondrial genes, and found that modern strains of malaria had suddenly diverged from a common ancestor only 38 million years ago, reports New Scientist.
AdvertisementIt was earlier assumed that species-specific parasite strains had slowly evolved along with their hosts.
However, discarding the theory of co-evolution, the new study showed that malaria explosion in vertebrates occurred well before the parasite was able to infect them.
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