The world’s deadliest creature isn’t what you might expect. A 2016 graphic from Bill Gates’ blog outlined the number of deaths per year related to animals. You will see the biggest offender – mosquitoes.

Yes, mosquitoes – the pesky bugs that suck blood and transmit viruses from person to person – are responsible for the most animal-related deaths (830,000 per year to be exact). For comparison, humans are responsible for 580,000 human deaths per year, snakes account for 60,000 deaths per year and sharks claimed just six lives per year. 

Mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of the Zika virus, as well as other life-threatening conditions like dengue and yellow fever. But those diseases aren’t what make mosquitoes so deadly.

“We should keep in mind that the overwhelming toll of mosquito-related illness and death comes from malaria,” Gates wrote in a blog post.

Malaria is a parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes that can lead to chills, fever and nausea, along with other severe complications including organ failure. The disease by itself is responsible for more than half of mosquito-related deaths, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa. But the number of deaths caused by the disease are dropping. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria deaths fell 62 per cent, translating to 6.8 million lives saved, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

There is no widely available vaccine for malaria, though three countries are set to take part in a pilot programme for a malaria vaccine starting in 2018, the WHO said in a news release.

Dengue fever, another mosquito-borne disease, has become a leading cause of hospitalisation and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries as well.

Aedes aegypti has been singled out as the mosquito that carries Zika and dengue fever, but other types of mosquitoes, like those in the Anopheles group, carry malaria.

Apart from vaccines and preventive efforts such as bed nets to keep the bugs away, eradicating mosquito is one of the best ways to curb the spread of deadly infectious diseases. Then, perhaps, there could be a new deadliest animal.

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