African origin of the malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax

Weimin Liu, Yingying Li, Katharina S. Shaw, Gerald H. Learn, Lindsey J. Plenderleith, Jordan A. Malenke, Sesh A. Sundararaman, Miguel A. Ramirez, Patricia A. Crystal, Andrew G. Smith, Frederic Bibollet-Ruche, Ahidjo Ayouba, Sabrina Locatelli, Amandine Esteban, Fatima Mouacha, Emilande Guichet, Christelle Butel, Steve Ahuka-Mundeke, Bila Isia Inogwabini, Jean Bosco N. NdjangoSheri Speede, Crickette M. Sanz, David B. Morgan, Mary K. Gonder, Philip J. Kranzusch, Peter D. Walsh, Alexander V. Georgiev, Martin N. Muller, Alex K. Piel, Fiona A. Stewart, Michael L. Wilson, Anne E. Pusey, Liwang Cui, Zenglei Wang, Anna Färnert, Colin J. Sutherland, Debbie Nolder, John A. Hart, Terese B. Hart, Paco Bertolani, Amethyst Gillis, Matthew LeBreton, Babila Tafon, John Kiyang, Cyrille F. Djoko, Bradley S. Schneider, Nathan D. Wolfe, Eitel Mpoudi-Ngole, Eric Delaporte, Richard Carter, Richard L. Culleton, George M. Shaw, Julian C. Rayner, Martine Peeters, Beatrice H. Hahn, Paul M. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Plasmodium vivax is the leading cause of human malaria in Asia and Latin America but is absent from most of central Africa due to the near fixation of a mutation that inhibits the expression of its receptor, the Duffy antigen, on human erythrocytes. The emergence of this protective allele is not understood because P. vivax is believed to have originated in Asia. Here we show, using a non-invasive approach, that wild chimpanzees and gorillas throughout central Africa are endemically infected with parasites that are closely related to human P. vivax. Sequence analyses reveal that ape parasites lack host specificity and are much more diverse than human parasites, which form a monophyletic lineage within the ape parasite radiation. These findings indicate that human P. vivax is of African origin and likely selected for the Duffy-negative mutation. All extant human P. vivax parasites are derived from a single ancestor that escaped out of Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3346
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Feb 21 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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