A new study has it that malaria accompanied the modern man as he moved out of Africa some 60,000 years ago.
An international team of researchers used DNA sequencing to reach the conclusion.
The scientists analysed over 500 blood samples taken from people infected with P. falciparum - the most lethal form of malaria - in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, Oceania, and South America.
By measuring the differences in SNP (single nucleotide pair) mutations within two well known genes in the P. falciparum genome, the team were able to determine how much genetic variation there was in the malaria genome in different regions.
They discovered that the greater the sample's distance from Africa, the less genetic variation there was in these marker genes of P. falciparum.
This is because as populations move away from their origin and become isolated, their genetic pool becomes more concentrated and less diverse.
Humans too show less genetic diversity the further away from Africa they get, the researchers point out.
This, coupled with the fact that humans are the only known host for malaria, strongly suggests that both humans and the malaria parasite evolved together as they migrated out of Africa between 60,000 to 80,000 years ago, reports ABC Science.
The evidence also suggests it may have originated in central sub-Saharan African around the Great Lakes region.
The study has been published in the journal Current Biology.