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Deforestation releases deadly malaria parasite

A monkey-borne parasite has become the dominant cause of malaria in Malaysia, and deforestation may be to blame, according to a study presented today at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting in New Orleans. Once rare in humans, Plasmodium knowlesi is now responsible for more than two-thirds of hospitalized malaria patients in Malaysian Borneo. Researchers suggest that over the past decade, massive loss of native forests to logging and palm oil production has significantly increased interaction between villagers and macaque monkeys, enabling the parasite to jump from animal to human hosts. If cases continue to rise, the researchers warn, mosquitoes could potentially transmit the parasite between humans, spreading the disease across Southeast Asia.

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