Malaria may have evolved in prehistoric era, 100 million years ago, claims study

Countering previous belief that claimed malaria to be of modern origin, a new study has said that the vector-borne disease has root from the prehistoric era and has evolved over the time. According to the researchers from the Oregon State University in US, chances are there that malaria may have evolved nearly 100 million years ago.

Previously, researchers believed malaria to be just 15,000 to 8 million years old. The deadly disease is caused by Plasmodium, a type of protozoa and spread by anopheline mosquitoes. Researchers have found various strains of malaria that tell them about the evolution and survival of disease on Earth.

Lead researcher Geroge Poinar from the Oregon State University in US said that the vector-borne deadly disease that kills millions of humans and animals on the Earth might have evolved more than 100 million years ago. What’s striking is that some researchers blame the blood sucking ability of insects and malaria behind the extinction of dinosaurs from the Earth.

“Fossil evidence shows that modern malaria vectored by mosquitoes is at least 20 million years old, and earlier forms of the disease, carried by biting midges, are at least 100 million years old and probably much older,” Poinar said.

Poinar further added that malaria can only be spread through insects and they are the primary hosts of the disease. Thus, analysing malaria traits in the insects has given enough evidence that points towards the prehistoric footprints of the disease.

Understanding the evolution of the disease will help researchers in developing a better technique to stop the transmission of the disease and prevent people from dying every year. Malaria hits countries like India where it kills hundreds of people every year.

Also, according to a report, Chinese researchers are causing genetic changes in male anopheles mosquito so that these mosquitoes can destroy the child producing ability of female anopheles mosquitoes. Hence, it will reduce the population of anopheles mosquito and eventually they will go extinct very soon.

The study appeared in the journal American Entomologist.