Animal programs

Bill Gates Says It’s The World’s Deadliest Animal And Data Shows He’s Right

The deadliest animal in the world is not the great white shark, or the grizzly bear, or even the moose. It is so small that you can easily pull it out or even crush it. Yet the mosquito, by spreading pathogens, kills more than a million people each year and sickens hundreds of millions more. To emphasize how dangerous they are, Bill Gates published his articles on mosquitoes during what he dubbed “Mosquito Week”, a takeoff of Shark Week. “Mosquitoes and the diseases they carry kill more people in a day than sharks kill in 100 years,” Gates noted in an email to his blog subscribers.

By far the worst thing people catch from mosquitoes is dengue fever, which kills 20,000 people a year and sickens another 400 million. But there is also Zika virus, West Nile virus, chikungunya and yellow fever. What many of us consider a troublesome summer pest can actually be a deadly threat, especially in tropical climates.

What is Gates doing about it? Oddly enough, it supports a program that replicates After mosquitoes and release them in 11 countries, mainly in Southeast Asia and South America. These mosquitoes are infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which prevents them from transmitting diseases that kill people. As lab-bred mosquitoes breed with other mosquitoes, Wolbachia spreads through the mosquito population, making them significantly less deadly. In a pilot program in Indonesia, the release of Wolbachia mosquitoes reduced dengue infections by 77%. People may have as many itchy mosquito bites as before, but fewer of them die.

For obvious reasons, Gates writes, the idea of ​​breeding mosquitoes and releasing them to bite unsuspecting people didn’t go down well at first. But the results of the pilot project have been impressive enough that the biggest challenge now is to breed enough Wolbachia mosquitoes to supply all the places that need them.

Using sugar to kill mosquitoes.

We all know that mosquitoes love human blood and we have bumpy, itchy bites to prove it. But, it turns out that mosquitoes need sugar throughout their lives to have enough energy to fly, whereas only mosquito mothers looking for food for their larvae look for human blood.

So another initiative Gates calls out in his blog is one that uses a simple combination of sugar and insecticide to attract and then kill mosquitoes. The bait sits behind a membrane that only mosquitoes can penetrate, so although it may attract other more beneficial insects like bees or butterflies, it will not kill them. The baits are inexpensive to produce, small, lightweight, and easy to nail to an exterior wall, Gates writes.

Currently, sweet baits are in the development stage. Research shows that, combined with mosquito nets and indoor insecticides already in common use, sugar baits could significantly reduce mosquito populations around homes, and thus reduce the incidence of malaria by 30% in places where it is present. is widespread. There were 241 million cases of malaria and 627,000 deaths in 2020, and these numbers keep rising, so a 30% reduction could save hundreds of thousands of lives. Who knows? Maybe one day we will have them all hanging in front of our homes.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.