Study In Asia Finds Monkey Malaria Strain More Widespread In Humans Than Previously Thought

“Researchers in Malaysia have confirmed that a form of malaria thought to primarily affect monkeys can infect and kill humans, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases journal,” Agence France-Presse reports. The research, which examined the clinical and laboratory features of the Plasmodium knowlesi malaria strain, found that it was “widespread among humans in Malaysia and neighboring countries,” AFP writes. The study was financed by the Wellcome Trust (9/9).

According to the BBC, the researchers tested more than 150 people diagnosed with malaria who had been admitted to hospital in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, between July 2006 and January 2008. “They found that P. knowlesi accounted for more than two-thirds of the infections, resulting in a wide spectrum of disease. Most cases of infection were uncomplicated and easily treated with drugs, including chloroquine and primaquine,” BBC reports.

The fatality rate was just under 2 percent, but that makes P. knowlesi as deadly as P. falciparum malaria. However, the researchers said that because only a small number of cases have been studied so far, it is difficult to provide an accurate fatality rate (9/9).

Study co-leader professor Balbir Singh of the University Malaysia Sarawak “warned that the P. knowlesi strain could become more prevalent as Western tourists visit Southeast Asian countries,” according to AFP (9/9). “Clinicians assessing a patient who has visited an area with known or possible P. knowlesi transmission should be aware of the diagnosis, clinical manifestations, and rapid and potentially serious course of P. knowlesi malaria,” Singh said in a Wellcome Trust press release (9/10).

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