Malaria spurt sparked after the parasite learnt to switch hosts.

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London, Sept 1 : In a breakthrough study, researchers at Osaka University in Japan have found that the spurt of malaria in species as diverse as humans, birds, and mice occurred when the species-specific parasite strains learnt to switch hosts.

The research team led by Toshiyuki Hayakawa analysed the parasite's mitochondrial genes, and found that modern strains of malaria had suddenly diverged from a common ancestor only 38 million years ago, reports New Scientist.

It was earlier assumed that species-specific parasite strains had slowly evolved along with their hosts.

However, discarding the theory of co-evolution, the new study showed that malaria explosion in vertebrates occurred well before the parasite was able to infect them.

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