Recent studies of captive and wild-living apes in Africa have uncovered evidence of numerous new Plasmodium species, one of which was identified as the immediate precursor of human Plasmodium falciparum. These findings raise the question whether wild apes could be a recurrent source of Plasmodium infections in humans. This question is not new, but was the subject of intense investigation by researchers in the first half of the last century. Re-examination of their work in the context of recent molecular findings provides a new framework to understand the diversity of Plasmodium species and to assess the risk of future cross-species transmissions to humans in the context of proposed malaria eradication programs.
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