Ask 100 people what animal they think is the deadliest, and you will likely hear a range of answers. Tigers, lions, sharks, crocodiles, maybe snakes? Perhaps you even thought of humans? All of these would be incorrect, according to Bill Gates.
On April 25, he posted an infographic on his blog, Gates Notes, showing that the animal that kills the most humans each year is one that we've all encountered, and likely squashed. It's the mosquito.
"The number of mosquito-caused deaths really is a mind-blowing thing. Other than humans killing humans during periods of war, most years, the mosquito wins," according to the trailer for the Gates Notes' Mosquito Week.
It is not the actual mosquito that kills -- it's the diseases that they can carry. Malaria is the deadliest, leading to an estimated 200 million infections each year. More than 700,000 of those infected do not survive.
Mosquitos also carry the dengue fever virus, Rift Valley fever virus, yellow fever, chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, Lymphatic filariasis, and Japanese encephalitis.
Beyond killing, these diseases leave millions of people worldwide out of work and unable to support themselves, especially in areas where healthcare is scant. Last week, Gates spoke to NPR about his mission to eradicate malaria, a priority of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"I was stunned when I found out that malaria, when we got started [in 2000], was killing a million children a year; most of that's in Africa," he said. That year, his foundation gave a $30 million grant, becoming one of the largest funders in that area. "It was stunning to me that a problem of such magnitude wasn't getting huge focus... For Africa to move forward, you've really got to get rid of malaria."
It is a goal that was accomplished in the American South in the early 1900s, NPR reported in January. Gates hopes to do the same in the developing world. This year, GlaxoSmithKline is expected to bring the first malaria vaccine to market. In preliminary testing in African children, it prevented 941 cases for every 1,000 toddlers vaccinated.
"It's not a 100-percent-effective vaccine. But that looks like it will be a very helpful tool," Gates told NPR.
Other vaccines are being developed in labs around the world, including the PfSPZ vaccine created by Sanaria, Inc. in Rockville, Md.
Gates Notes will continue posting information about mosquitos and life with mosquito-caused diseases throughout the week. According to the graphic, sharks kill about 10 humans each year. Crocodiles kill 1,000; dogs, 25,000. Humans kills 475,000 fellow humans each year. Mosquitos kill 725,000.