The origin and age of Plasmodium vivax

Trends Parasitol. 2006 Dec;22(12):558-63. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2006 Oct 10.


The evolutionary history of Plasmodium vivax has recently been addressed in terms of its origin as a parasite of humans and the age of extant populations. The consensus is that P. vivax originated as a result of a host switch from a non-human primate to hominids and that the extant populations did not originate as recently as previously proposed. Here, we show that, in a comparison of parasite isolates from across the world, Asian populations of P. vivax are the oldest. We discuss how this result, together with the phylogenetic evidence that P. vivax derived from Plasmodium found in Southeast Asian macaques, is most simply explained by assuming an Asian origin of this parasite. Nevertheless, the available data show only the tip of the iceberg. We discuss how sampling might affect time estimates to the most recent common ancestor for P. vivax populations and suggest that spatially explicit estimates are needed to understand the demographic history of this parasite better.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Humans
  • Macaca
  • Malaria, Vivax / parasitology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plasmodium vivax / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA, Protozoan