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  • Worldwide spread of malaria has ancient roots

The malaria parasite initially spread out of Africa about 100,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.

The research, published in this week's Science, also suggests that this initial migration was followed by a huge expansion of the parasite population about 10,000 years ago. This coincides both with the rise of human agricultural societies and the evolution of mosquito carriers.

An international team of researchers studied nearly 100 samples of genetic material from the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum worldwide and estimated the ages of populations in different regions, based on the number of mutations present. They found that the 10 most recent mutations appear in African parasites, suggesting that populations there continue to grow faster than elsewhere.

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Link to research paper in Science
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