Plasmodium vivax is part of a highly diverse clade that includes several Plasmodium species found in nonhuman primates from Southeast Asia. The diversity of primate malarias in Asia is staggering; nevertheless, their origin was relatively recent in the evolution of Plasmodium. We discuss how humans acquired the lineage leading to P. vivax from a nonhuman primate determined by the complex geological processes that took place in Southeast Asia during the last few million years. We conclude that widespread population genomic investigations are needed in order to understand the demographic processes involved in the expansion of P. vivax in the human populations. India represents one of the few countries with widespread vivax malaria. Earlier studies have indicated high genetic polymorphism at antigenic loci and no evidence for geographic structuring. However, new studies using genetic markers in selectively neutral genetic regions indicate that Indian P. vivax presents complex evolutionary history but possesses features consistent with being part of the ancestral distribution range of this species. Such studies are possible due to the availability of the first P. vivax genome sequences. Next generation sequencing technologies are now paving the way for the sequencing of more P. vivax genomes that will dramatically increase our understanding of the unique biology of this species.
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