Plasmodium knowlesi is a simian malaria parasite currently recognized as the fifth causative agent of human malaria. Recently, naturally acquired P. cynomolgi infection in humans was also detected in Southeast Asia. The main reservoir of both parasites is the long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, which are indigenous in this region. Due to increased urbanization and changes in land use, there has been greater proximity and interaction between the long-tailed macaques and the general population in Singapore.
Zoonotic cases of Plasmodium knowlesi account for most malaria cases in Malaysia, and humans infected with P. cynomolgi, another parasite of macaques have recently been reported in Sarawak. To date the epidemiology of malaria in its natural Macaca reservoir hosts remains little investigated. In this study we surveyed the prevalence of simian malaria in wild macaques of three states in Peninsular Malaysia, namely Pahang, Perak and Johor using blood samples from 103 wild macaques (collected by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia) subjected to microscopic examination and nested PCR targeting the Plasmodium small subunit ribosomal RNA gene.
Macaca fascicularis (long-tailed macaque) is the most widespread species of macaque in Southeast Asia and the only species of monkey found naturally in the Philippines. The species is the natural host for the zoonotic malaria species, Plasmodium knowlesi and Plasmodium cynomolgi and for the potentially zoonotic species, Plasmodium inui. Moreover, other Plasmodium species such as Plasmodium coatneyi and Plasmodium fieldi are also natural parasites of M. fascicularis. The aims of this study were to identify and determine the prevalence of Plasmodium species infecting wild and captive long-tailed macaques from the Philippines.