Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, would like to cuddle with a shark and he has a valid reason. Millions of people across the world are killed by animals every year. In 2015 alone, the number of people killed by animals was a staggering 1.5 million. This was equal to the number of people who died because of HIV/AIDS and diabetes.
Gates writes in a blog that the usual suspects of the animal kingdom are some of the culprits behind human deaths. Lions kill around 100 people, Hippos about 500 and Crocodiles around 1,000.
However, the number of people killed by animals is way less than deaths caused by small bugs like mosquitoes. This is the reason why Gates says that he would rather cuddle with a shark than kiss a bug. “Pound for pound, a shark isn’t that scary compared with many smaller creatures on the list,” he writes.
In an interactive chart on his blog, Gates explains that mosquitoes claim 830,000 death in a year and they are the deadliest animals. Mosquitoes carrying malaria kill a child every minute across the world.
Among other small animals, snakes cause 60,000 deaths, sandfly claims 24,200 deaths, kissing bugs kill 8,000 people, freshwater snail claims 4,400 lives, scorpions kill 3,500 people, tsetse fly claims 3,500 lives, ascaris roundworm kills about 2,700 and tapeworm 1,600. As compared to all these small creatures, a shark is certainly a humble being as it kills only about six people every year.
Gates dreams of eradicating malaria from the world by 2040. For this, he says, “We’ll need several other key innovations under development to come to fruition.” These are:
a) New classes of drugs that can completely remove parasites from the body in one dose. Such drugs could be possible in a decade.
b) New tools to prevent malaria transmission. Gates says a “first-generation vaccine” in this regard would be available soon, but it would protect a child for less than six months without a booster dose. In another 10 years, he believes, researchers would be able to come up with a vaccine that would provide longer protection.
c) Gates says his foundation is working on a “potential game-changer”, that is a tool called “genome editing” which would “introduce genetic changes in the Anopheles Gambiae species of mosquito, one of the most effective transmitters of malaria in Africa. These genetic edits cause females to produce mostly male, sterile offspring. In theory, scientists could drive this trait throughout entire populations of mosquitoes in much of Africa, dramatically reducing malaria transmission in a very short time.”