No: we won’t be dealing with sharks, snakes, spiders, lions or tigers…. Though these are definitely dangerous, statistically, they are the wrong answer.
The short and right answer is: mosquitoes.
Maybe a small clarification is needed. The mosquito bite is not dangerous by itself, but mosquitoes carry bacteria, parasites or viruses that are injected while sucking blood.
Blood conveys nutriment to all the cells and is a rich source of food for female mosquitoes that are bearing eggs. However, mammals blood coagulates, i.e. it tends to become solid (in clots) as soon as it gets out of the blood vessel. It would clot within the mosquito itself…. Mosquitoes cannot afford this to happen, so they inject their saliva, which contain a strong anti-coagulant. But their saliva, on top of containing some peptides (proteins) that provoke light allergies (e.g. scratching), will also transmit whatever contagious illness, potentially coming from the previous host.
In an article published in 2002, Seth Borenstein confirms that mosquitoes kill more human beings worldwide in five minutes than sharks in a year. The World Health Organisation estimates that, in 2010, there were 219 million cases of malaria resulting in 660,000 deaths. The list of diseases that are carried by mosquitoes is very long and is not limited to malaria, yellow fever or dengue fever.
Nobody thought mosquitoes could be dangerous until Sir Patrick Manson demonstrated in 1877 that elephantiasis was due to mosquitoes bites. Later, it occurred to him that mosquitoes might also convey malaria. So he encouraged one of his pupils, Ronald Ross, to investigate. Ronald Ross won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902, for isolating the malaria parasite and proving the connection with mosquito bites.
For the sake of completion, it has to be said that not all mosquitoes “drink blood”. The “elephant mosquito” (Toxorhynchites), for example, is a giant mosquito whose larvae prey on the larvae of other mosquitoes. They have even been used as mosquito control agents….
Inspired by The Book of General Ignorance by Lloyd, Mitchinson & Fry.
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