What is the world’s deadliest animal? Sharks? Alligators? Humans? If you thought the right answer was humans...you are…close!
The world’s deadliest animal is actually disease-carrying mosquitoes. According to this blog post by Bill Gates, mosquitoes kill 725,000 people a year, causing 50%+ more deaths than humans. Mosquitoes can transmit a wide range of diseases, ranging from malaria and yellow fever to diseases that are now closer to home like zika.
If you are someone living in North America or Europe, mosquitoes are probably a summertime nuisance — but if you are living in regions of the world where these diseases are endemic, an itchy mosquito bite could literally mean life or death, especially if you are a child with an underdeveloped immune system and cannot fight back.
To take a step back, diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are most prevalent in warm and humid regions of the world mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and the Amazon Basin. If a mosquito bites a human infected with a certain disease, the mosquito also picks up the disease causing virus in its blood meal. When that mosquito then bites another human, the disease is transmitted from person to person. Unfortunately, the mosquito itself is not affected by the underlying disease (or else malaria would be a lot easier to fight!) so one infected mosquito can spread the disease to many.
So how are humans combatting these deadly pests? This is where the global health community comes in. Nonprofit institutions ranging from the World Health Organization, Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Gates Foundation to Ministries of Health around the world are funding solutions like low-cost next generation insecticide treated bed nets, vaccines and better community level health clinics. But for-profit biotech companies and their investors are also doing their part. Companies and investors are investing millions of dollars into research and development to ensure vaccines and medicines that prevent and treat these mosquito transmitted diseases are available and accessible to those who need them most.
While we may not be able to stop all itchy mosquito bites, together, we may be able to stop those mosquito bites from killing more people around the world.
Guest author Jenny Yip is a Partner at Adjuvant Capital, a global health investment fund dedicated to funding late-stage product development for infectious disease, including mosquito transmitted ones. She was previously a Partner at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Strategic Investment Fund. Click here to hear Jenny discuss Adjuvant Capital and the private sector’s evolving role in global public health in a recent CapShift webinar.