If malaria came from the chimps, then what does that tell us about the origins of malaria? Understanding the origins may someday lead to a cure. However, a cure for malaria could result in a problem with population control since malaria acts as a "natural" way to control the world's population. Worldwide, malaria infects 500 million people every year and kills between 1 million and 3 million. Undoubtedly, it's a huge public health problem. However, if a cure for malaria reaches developing nations, then we may start seeing more countries enforcing birth-controlling policies such as China's one-child policy.
A story on CNN highlights the research that traces the roots of malaria to chimps. Here's an interesting snippet:
According to Nathan Wolfe and his team, malaria jumped to humans from our closest ancestors: chimpanzees. This finding, he says, unlocks one of the biggest medical mysteries confronting humans.So, we know that many viral infections jump from animals to humans. We've seen this happen with SARS, bird flu, swine flu, and even HIV. It's definitely interesting to see that malaria (which is not a viral infection) may have also jumped from animals to humans.
"We can actually understand, we can actually re-create the story that explains a fundamental and important part of our history," Wolfe said. "For me, this is the microbiological equivalent of discovering the origins of HIV."
Understanding the origin -- and the genetic behavior -- of a pathogen is the holy grail in the world of infectious disease.