Wild great apes are widely infected with malaria parasites. Yet, nothing is known about the biology of these infections in the wild. Using faecal samples collected from wild chimpanzees, an international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin has now investigated the effect of the animals’ age on malaria parasite detection rates.
Group of chimpanzees, Taï National Park, Cote d’Ivoire. © Sonja Metzger
The data show a strong association between age and malaria parasite positivity, with significantly lower detection rates in adult chimpanzees. This suggests that, as in humans, individuals reaching adulthood have mounted an effective protective immunity against malaria parasites.In malaria regions the parasite prevalence in the human body as well as malaria-related morbidity and mortality decrease with age. This reflects the progressive mounting of a protective immunity. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Robert Koch-Institute now present a study which addresses the age distribution of malaria parasite infection in a group of wild chimpanzees.
“Even though at this stage, we cannot pinpoint pathogenicity of malaria parasites found in wild chimpanzees, our results suggest a continuous exposure of this population, leading to the development of a certain resistance to infection”, says Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch-Institute.
ContactDr. Roman Wittig
Dr. Roman Wittig | Max-Planck-Institute
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