White-tailed deer have their own form of malaria | Science News


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White-tailed deer have their own form of malaria

Long-overlooked parasite turns up in southeastern U.S.

2:18pm, February 5, 2016
researchers with deer

MISSED IT  Decades of research on white-tailed deer have missed a malaria parasite now confirmed with new evidence. Here, researchers are working with a deer they temporarily trapped during a survey for parasites.    

The white-tailed deer, maybe the best-studied wild animal in North America, turns out to carry a malaria parasite that science has overlooked for decades.

The malaria parasite in deer is a completely different species from the ones that cause disease in humans. A report in 1967 based on one deer in Texas had claimed that the parasite existed and a 1980 paper had named it Plasmodium odocoilei. But no one had reported it again until Ellen Martinsen of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., and her colleagues accidentally rediscovered it.

Their find dashes the current belief that no mammals other than people in the Western Hemisphere carry their own native forms of malaria, Martinsen and her colleagues say in the Feb. 5 Science Advances. And the work also challenges the conventional wisdom that no members of the deer family anywhere have their own malaria

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