Mosquitoes: New contender for most lethal animal

Journal name:
Date published:
Published online

Of some 3,500 species of mosquito, those of the genus Anopheles are widely considered to be the most dangerous because they transmit malaria. Malaria is decreasing, however, and other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever, are increasing (S. V. Mayer et al. Acta Tropica 166, 155163; 2017). The mosquito Aedes aegypti, the primary carrier of these viruses, now constitutes an even greater threat (see also Nature 539, 1718; 2016, and S. F. Dowell et al. Nature 540, 189191; 2016).

Aedes mosquitoes have been transferring these viruses among African primates for millennia. One African primate (Homo sapiens) and one African Aedes (A. aegypti) have spread from Africa. Viruses adapted to both have spread with them. Yellow fever hit the developed world in the seventeenth century, dengue in the nineteenth, chikungunya in the twentieth, and now Zika in the twenty-first.

Scientists studying mosquito-borne viruses have catalogued hundreds more lurking in Africa. The world needs to take notice before these take hold and spread further. As Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) wrote, “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi” ('there is always something new coming out of Africa').

Author information


  1. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

    • Jeffrey R. Powell

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

Author details


  1. Report this comment #69195

    Carlos Polanco said:

    To the editor:

    Mosquitoes: a losing battle

    This interesting editorial by Powell (1) [Mosquitoes: New contender for most lethal animal, Nature], warns rightly over the risk that the mosquitoes represent. Here I provide some numbers: there are ?1010 mosquitoes by each human being (2), the female Aedes aegypti mosquito bites and transmits extremely harmful infections (3) ?during the entire night from sunset to sunrise (4), they put their eggs on the margins of rivers and lakes (5), and they are rapidly becoming resistant to insecticides (6). Mosquitoes kill more human being than those that human kill (7). In my view, mosquitoes are living organisms intelligent and unbeatable, I do not exaggerate when I say that our species is compromised.

    Carlos Polanco, Ph.D., D.Sc.
    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México City, México.

    Carlos Polanco is Associate Professor at the Department of Mathematics, in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. México City, México. (


    1. Powell J.R. Mosquitoes: New contender for most lethal animal. Nature 540, 525 DOI:10.1038/540525c

    2. Size population mosquitoes a/cuantos-insectos-hay-en-el-mundo-y-en-espana-y-para-que-sirve n-los-mosquitos-cuantos-mueren-en-la-carretera accessed Dec 24, 2016.

    3. Klempner MS, Unnasch TR, Hu L. Taking a Bite Out of Vector-Trans mitted Infectious Diseases. The New England journal of medicine. 2007;356(25):2567-2569. doi:10.1056/NEJMp078081.

    4. Basseri HR, Abai MR, Raeisi A, Shahandeh K. Community Sleeping Pattern and Anopheline Biting in Southeastern Iran: A Country Ear marked for Malaria Elimination. The American Journal of Tropical M edicine and Hygiene. 2012;87(3):499-503. DOI:10.4269/ajtmh.201 2.11-0356.

    5. Mereta ST, Yewhalaw D, Boets P, et al. Physico-chemical and biolog ical characterization of anopheline mosquito larval habitats (Dipter a: Culicidae): implications for malaria control. Parasites & Vectors. 2013;6:320. DOI:10.1186/1756-3305-6-320.

    6. Soko W, Chimbari MJ, Mukaratirwa S. Insecticide resistance in mala ria-transmitting mosquitoes in Zimbabwe: a review. Infectious Dise ases of Poverty. 2015;4:46. DOI:10.1186/s40249-015-0076-7.

    7. Animals that kill most humans s/the-animals-that-kill-most-humans.html accessed Dec 24, 2016.

Subscribe to comments

Additional data