Wild African great apes as natural hosts of malaria parasites: current knowledge and research perspectives
Abstract. Humans and African great apes (AGAs) are naturally infected with several species of closely related malaria parasites. The need to understand the origins of human malaria as well as the risk of zoonotic transmissions and emergence of new malaria strains in human populations has markedly encouraged research on great ape Plasmodium parasites. Progress in the use of non-invasive methods has rendered investigations into wild ape populations possible. Present knowledge is mainly focused on parasite diversity and phylogeny, with still large gaps to fill on malaria parasite ecology. Understanding what malaria infection means in terms of great ape health is also an important, but challenging avenue of research and has been subject to relatively few research efforts so far. This paper reviews current knowledge on African great ape malaria and identifies gaps and future research perspectives.