University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Discovery: Many white-tailed deer have malaria

February 8, 2016

Two years ago, Ellen Martinsen, was collecting mosquitoes at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, looking for malaria that might infect birds–when she discovered something strange: a DNA profile, from parasites in the mosquitoes, that she couldn’t identify. By chance, she had discovered a malaria parasite, Plasmodium odocoilei–that infects white-tailed deer. It’s the first-ever malaria parasite known to live in a deer species and the only native malaria parasite found in any mammal in North or South America. Though white-tailed deer diseases have been heavily studied–scientist hadn’t noticed that many have malaria parasites. Martinsen and her colleagues estimate that the parasite infects up to twenty-five percent of white-tailed deer along the East Coast of the United States. Their results were published February 5 in Science Advances. IN HIDING Read
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