A new study has revealed that Malaria, a life-threatening condition in which parasites are transmitted through mosquito bites, started out as the parasite in birds and then evolved to colonise bats and other mammals, as per a report dated March 27, 2016.
Every year, Malaria is said to affect around 500 million people. However, the study points out that it also infects mammals, bats and birds. Humans cannot contract the disease directly from bats or birds.
Cornell University’s lead author Holly Lutz stated that we can’t understand how malaria has spread to humans until its evolutionary history is understood.
This study was published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution and in this study, blood samples from bats, small mammals and East African birds were taken. Then, the blood was screened for parasites.
When malaria was found, samples of the DNA of the parasites were taken and were sequenced for identifying mutations in the genetic code. Then, Lutz performed ‘phylogenetic analyses’ for determining the relation between different malaria species.
While analyzing the genetic codes, Lutz was able to find places where there was difference in the DNA from one species to the other. Then, powerful computing software was used for determining how the evolution of different species happened and how they are related to each other.
Lutz stated that there is lot to be discovered but this is the complete analysis to date. With this analysis, it is revealed that malaria has roots in birds, after which it spread to mammals and bats.
With this study, not only light is shed on the way malaria is spread, but necessary information is also provided about the way in which parasites and animals are connected.