The Jump from Gorillas to Humans

Scientists reconstructed a 50,000-year-old gene sequence to find out how Plasmodium falciparum—one of the deadliest malaria parasites—jumped from gorillas to humans.

How did it happen? A gene in the ancient sequence produced an “ancestral RH5 protein” that was able to bind to humans’ red blood cell receptors. Interrupting that interaction could prove a key target for malaria vaccines.

Malaria now kills over 400,000 people every year—this research from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Montpellier offers crucial insight into its molecular pathway to humans. The findings could also advance understanding of how other pathogens came to jump between species.



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