Scientists from New Zealand discovered signs of malaria that appeared more than 7 thousand years ago. Previously, researchers linked malaria with the development of agriculture.

New bioarchaeological studies have shown that malaria appeared on the planet 7 thousand years ago. Its appearance was previously associated with the beginning of the development of agriculture.

Study lead author Melandri Vlock of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago, New Zealand, notes that this is a groundbreaking discovery that is changing the way people think about malaria, still one of the deadliest diseases in the world.

“Until now, we thought that malaria became a global threat to humans when we turned to agriculture, but our research shows that, at least in Southeast Asia, the disease was a threat to human groups long before that.”

The disease remains a serious public health problem. In 2019, the World Health Organization reported 229 million cases of malaria worldwide. Moreover, 67% of deaths from malaria occur in children under the age of five.

Although malaria is not visible in archaeological sources, the disease has changed evolutionary history, causing effects seen in prehistoric skeletons. Some genetic mutations can lead to the inheritance of thalassemia, a genetic disease that, in a milder form, provides partial protection against malaria.