- Image: James Gathany, CDC
The most deadly species of malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum
, manufacture molecules called PfEMP1 that make parasites stick to blood vessel linings in the brain and other organs. Very similar molecules have now been discovered (see here
) in malaria parasites that infect chimpanzees and gorillas. This suggests that the kind of brain pathology we find in humans with severe malaria has its roots in an extremely ancient host-parasite interaction.