Newly discovered parasites may infect up to 25% of white-tailed deer in the Eastern U.S., but scientists say a leap to humans is unlikely.
White-tailed deer are the first New World mammals known to have a native species of malaria parasite. (Photo: Shutterstock)
White-tailed deer are some of North America’s most familiar megafauna, frequenting parks and yards across the continent. But they’ve been hiding something from us, a new study finds: In some places, up to a quarter of them harbor malaria parasites.
Earth has more than 100 species of malaria parasites, all in the genus Plasmodium. They infect an array of reptiles, birds and mammals, but aside from a lone Texas white-tail in 1967, they hadn’t been documented in any deer species. And no other native Plasmodium species is known to infect any mammal in the Americas. Read more.