How Humans Made Malaria So Deadly

How Humans Made Malaria So Deadly

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FYI: We try to leave jargon out of our videos, but if you want to learn more about this topic, here are some keywords to get your googling started:

Malaria – a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
Parasite – an organism that benefits by living in/on a host organism and deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.
Host – an organism in/on which another organism lives.
Protozoa – a group of single-celled microscopic animals (not bacteria or viruses) that includes the Plasmodium species.
Plasmodium – a genus of parasitic protozoa, many of which cause malaria in their hosts. Four species regularly infect humans: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, & P. ovale.
P. falciparum – the Plasmodium species that kills the most people, by causing malignant malaria, the most dangerous form of malaria.
Anopheles gambiae – a ‘complex’ of at least seven species of mosquitoes that are the main vectors of P. falciparum in sub-Saharan Africa.
Species complex – a group of closely related species that look so similar that the boundaries between them are often unclear.
Hunting and gathering – depending primarily on wild foods for subsistence
Paleontology – the study of fossils and what fossils tell us about the past, about evolution, and about how humans fit into the world.

Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: Alex Reich (@alexhreich)
Script Editor: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Illustrator: Qingyang Chen
Video Director: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Narrator: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:


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Gething, P. W., et al. (2011). A new world malaria map: Plasmodium falciparum endemicity in 2010. Malaria journal, 10(1), 1.

Gething, P. W., et al. (2011). Modelling the global constraints of temperature on transmission of Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax. Parasites & Vectors, 4(1), 1.

Hay, S. I., et al. (2004). The global distribution and population at risk of malaria: past, present, and future. The Lancet infectious diseases, 4(6), 327-336.

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). (2016). GBD Compare Data Visualization. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington. Retrieved from

Liu, W., et al. (2010). Origin of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in gorillas. Nature, 467(7314), 420-425. doi: 10.1038/nature09442

Malaria: Fact sheet (April 2016). Retrieved from

Packard, R. M. (2007). The making of a tropical disease: a short history of malaria (pp. 1-66 ). Baltimore.

Rich, S. M., et al. (2009). The origin of malignant malaria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(35), 14902-14907. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907740106

Shah, S. (2010). The Fever: how malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years (pp. 1-33). Macmillan.

Sundararaman, S. A., et al. (2016). Genomes of cryptic chimpanzee Plasmodium species reveal key evolutionary events leading to human malaria. Nature communications, 7. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11078

Webb, J. L. (2009). Humanity’s burden: a global history of malaria (pp. 1-91). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

World Health Organization. (2015). World malaria report 2015. World Health Organization. Retrieved from

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