Very large long–term effective population size in the virulent human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

Austin L. Hughes, Federica Vierra

Abstract

It has been proposed that the virulent human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum underwent a recent severe population bottleneck. In order to test this hypothesis, we estimated the effective population size of this species from the patterns of nucleotide substitution at 23 nuclear protein–coding loci, using a variety of methods based on coalescent theory. Both simple methods and phylogenetically based maximum–likelihood methods yielded the conclusion that the effective population size of this species has been of the order of at least 105 for the past 300 000—400 000 years.

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