The world’s deadliest animals

World s deadliest animals

During the Gates Notes Mosquito Week Bill Gates posted this Chart-of-the-Year.

(…snip…) What makes mosquitoes so dangerous? Despite their innocuous-sounding name—Spanish for “little fly”—they carry devastating diseases. The worst is malaria, which kills more than 600,000 people every year; another 200 million cases incapacitate people for days at a time. It threatens half of the world’s population and causes billions of dollars in lost productivity annually. Other mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.

There are more than 2,500 species of mosquito, and mosquitoes are found in every region of the world except Antarctica. During the peak breeding seasons, they outnumber every other animal on Earth, except termites and ants. They were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the construction of the Panama Canal. And they affect population patterns on a grand scale: In many malarial zones, the disease drives people inland and away from the coast, where the climate is more welcoming to mosquitoes.

Scientists design malaria-resistant GM mosquito

Here’s some good news via David Tribe:

Scientists have developed a model for a genetically modified (GM) mosquito, which produces malaria-eliminating antibodies and is unable to transmit the parasite to humans by biting, potentially making it a viable alternative to a malaria vaccine.The modified Anopheles stephensi mosquito — one of 30–40 mosquito species that commonly transmit malaria — releases antibodies that either kill or stall the development of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite which causes the most severe form of malaria in humans.”This is the first model of a malaria vector with a genetic modification that can potentially exist in wild populations and be transferred through generations without affecting their fitness,” Anthony James, lead author on the study and professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California Irvine (UCI) in the United States, told Wired magazine.

The study, which has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was carried out by researchers at UCI and the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. (snip) Link to the article in Wired.co.uk

Link to the full article in PNAS

Time to Start Thinking About the Consequences of a Breathrough on Malaria

Thanks to Roger Pielke Jr. for this. This will change everything if it really works in the field. I do not have the competence to evaluate the probability of success — but this is encouraging:

The New England Journal of Medicine has released the preliminary results of a field test of a new malaria vaccine by GlaxoSmithKline. An editorial that accompanies the study explains its significance and the author of that editorial notes the unusual step of publishing results beofre the study is actually completed:

It’s been a long time coming, and indeed we are still not there yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear that we really do have the first effective vaccine against a parasitic disease in humans. . . It is not usual practice to publish the results of trials in pieces, and there does not seem to be a clear scientific reason why this trial has been reported with less than half the efficacy results available.

It appears that the NEJM timed released to coincide with a major meeting of the Gates Foundation on malaria. The hyping of research results cannot be considered good practice. In the study itself concerns are expressed about side effects, such as an apparent increase in meningitis and seizures.

With these cautions in mind, the implications are potentially huge — most significantly for improving the lives of Africans who live under the burden of the disease. Here is what I wrote in 2008:

Read the whole thing »

Among Roger’s observations is the implication for much higher Africa GDP growth (+3 to 4%), and hence much more rapid growth in fossil fuel burning in Africa. Unless we can put the deserved focus on helping Africa go nuclear instead of fossil.