Plasmodium knowlesi – an emerging pathogen

M.A. Ahmed, Janet Cox Singh

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Ten years have passed since the publication of a large focus of Plasmodium
knowlesi infections in the human population. The discovery was made during molecular investigation of atypical P. malariae cases in the Kapit Health Division,
Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Patients were more symptomatic with higher
parasite counts than expected in P. malariae infections. The investigation found
only P. knowlesi DNA present in patient blood samples. Morphological similarity
had allowed P. knowlesi to masquerade as P. malariae during routine diagnostic
microscopy for malaria. P. knowlesi, a malaria parasite of macaque monkeys,
had entered the human population. The subsequent development of P. knowlesi
species-specific PCR assays soon demonstrated that the entry was not confined the Kapit Division but extended across island and mainland Southeast Asia.
Relevant clinical descriptions and guidelines for the treatment and management
of patents with P. knowlesi malaria were not available. Nor was it clear whether
P. knowlesi had undergone a host switch event into the human population or infections were zoonotic. The outputs of studies on P. knowlesi malaria during
the past 10 years will be summarized, highlighting major findings within the
context of pathophysiology, virulence, host switch events, treatment, control and
importantly malaria elimination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-140
JournalISBT Science Series
Issue numberS1
Early online date13 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Plasmodium
  • Knowlesi
  • Malaria
  • Pathophysiology
  • Virulence
  • Zoonosis


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