Plasmodium knowlesi is a malaria parasite found in macaque monkeys in Southeast Asia that can also cause malaria in humans.
The mosquito vectors of P. knowelsi are adapted to the jungles of Southeast Asia and they bite humans and monkeys with equal preference. Humans become infected when they enter the jungle setting and are bitten by an infected mosquito. Evidence suggests that P. knowlesi remains zoonotic in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. However, there is massive on-going jungle habitat destruction in Southeast Asia and it is not known how this will impact mosquito, macaque or parasite populations. Will there be more interaction with the human population or will the P. knowlesi transmission cycle adapt to a more urban environment? Without more data there is no way to predict this at the moment. We do know that P. knowlesi causes severe and life threatening disease in approximately 10% of humans infected. The severe form of the disease has similarity with P. falciparum and a shift from jungle to urban transmission for P. knowlesi would put people at risk.
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