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Diversity, host switching and evolution of Plasmodium vivax infecting African great apes


Plasmodium vivax is considered to be absent from Central and West Africa because of the protective effect of Duffy negativity. However, there are reports of persons returning from these areas infected with this parasite and observations suggesting the existence of transmission. Among the possible explanations for this apparent paradox, the existence of a zoonotic reservoir has been proposed. May great apes be this reservoir? We analyze the mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity of P. vivax parasites isolated from great apes in Africa and compare it to parasites isolated from travelers returning from these regions of Africa, as well as to human isolates distributed all over the world. We show that the P. vivax sequences from parasites of great apes form a clade genetically distinct from the parasites circulating in humans. We show that this clade's parasites can be infectious to humans by describing the case of a traveler returning from the Central African Republic infected with one of them. The relationship between this P. vivax clade in great apes and the human isolates is discussed.

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