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We present a new phylogenetic analysis of 15 primate Plasmodium species based on 18S rDNA sequences including new sequences of Plasmodium coatneyi, P. fieldi, P. gonderi, P. hylobati and P. simium. The results are discussed in the context of the parasite host species and their geographical distribution. Contrary to other phylogenies constructed with this 18S rDNA molecule, we observed that the topology of phylogenetic trees was not affected either by the quality of the nucleotide matrices, or by the species present in the outgroup. This analysis showed the following. (1) The polyphyly of human Plasmodium is confirmed. (2) The monophyly of Plasmodium from Old World monkeys is confirmed by the new added sequences and P. gonderi, an African species, possibly could be at the root of this group. (3) The most parsimonious biogeographical hypothesis is that P. vivax originated in Asia; thus, its related species P. simium appears to be derived through a transfer from the human P. vivax to New World monkey species in South America. (4) Sampling efforts of non-human primate Plasmodium could permit improvement of the knowledge of primate Plasmodium phylogeny and also consideration of the risks of malaria emergence from monkey reservoirs.
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