Love work of @billgates but "mosquitoes kill more people than people do" is just wrong

I truly love the work Bil Gates and the Gates Foundation have been doing over the last years.  Absolutely wonderful stuff.  But I have a bone (or perhaps a proboscis) to pick with this latest effort: The Deadliest Animal in the World | Bill Gates.  The article discusses some “facts” about how many people different animals kill.  And it uses this to argue for the need for more attention to be placed on mosquitoes.  I agree with the conclusion.  Mosquitoes are a big deal and need much much much more work and attention.  But the data is just, well, not sound.  Here is the problem I have

1. Many of the animals, including mosquitoes, are on the list are there because of the diseases they transmit.  For example, dogs are there (for rabies), and tsetse flies are there for sleeping sickness.  That is, they do not kill people directly but indirectly because of a disease they transmit.

2. If we follow that logic, which I am fine with, then we need to add a whole lot of deaths to the “human” column.  After all, humans transmit a whole heck of a lot of diseases that kill humans.  One source I found has the following #s

  • HIV/AIDS: 1.78 million per year
  • Tuberculosis: 1.34 million per year
  • Flu: 250-500,000 per year
  • HAIs: >100,000
  • Syphilis: 100,000
  • Measles: 600,000

and many many many more.   The totals are probably greater than 5 million per year that are killed by infectious diseases where it was humans who transmitted the agent to other humans.  Way more than the mosquitoes.  Again, I agree with the conclusion.  We need lots more attention on mosquitoes.  But there seems little doubt to me which animal is most responsible for the spread of deadly pathogens to humans.  And that animal is us.


Am kind of annoyed at the press coverage of this Gates – mosquitoes are the deadliest animal – concept.  Here are some examples where people just ate up the idea without really asking any questions about its accuracy

And many many more.  It is a cute concept.  And an important one.  It just happens to be wrong.

UPDATE 5/4. Some Tweets of relevance






See Vox post: No, mosquitoes aren’t deadlier than humans

Also see these posts which run with the Gates meme


Bill and Melinda Gates want to give you $250,000 #Vaccines

All you have to do is apply and, well, win … just got this email from the Gates Foundation – definitely worth nominating someone if you think they are doing good work.  Once again, the Gates Foundation is helping change the world … Jenny McCarthy need not apply.  Here is the email:

Dear Colleagues:

Do you know someone who is improving vaccine delivery in the developing world? Now is the time to nominate that person or group of people for the second annual Gates Vaccine Innovation Award. Time is running out — the deadline for nominations is August 31, 2012.

The Gates Vaccine Innovation Award is open to individuals from any discipline who work on the delivery of vaccines. Candidates from academic institutions, governments, health care facilities, research institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies may be nominated.

We are looking for ideas, big or small, that have resulted in tangible improvements in immunization coverage in developing countries.

We invite you to nominate individuals or groups of individuals who have achieved significant improvements in the prevention, control, or elimination of vaccine preventable diseases through immunization.

The winning nomination will be recognized with a $250,000 award.

Read about the 2012 Gates Vaccine Innovation Award winner Dr. Asm Amjad Hossain here.

Thank you for your continued support of this important award. 

PLoS picture of the day: Simon Chan from #UCDavis sports #PLoSOne shirt when presenting to @BillGates

Good to see here that Simon Chan, from UC Davis, knows what is the best outfit to wear to present his work to Bill Gates.  

Thanks to Simon for sending me the photo and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for approving it’sits use here.