Assessing key safety concerns of a Wolbachia-based strategy to control dengue transmission by Aedes mosquitoes
Moreira, Luciano A
O’Neill, Scott L
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Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya or malaria affect millions of people each year and control solutions are urgently needed. An international research program is currently being developed that relies on the introduction of the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis into Aedes aegypti to control dengue transmission. In order to prepare for open-field testing releases of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, an intensive social research and community engagement program was undertaken in Cairns, Northern Australia. The most common concern expressed by the diverse range of community members and stakeholders surveyed was the necessity of assuring the safety of the proposed approach for humans, animals and the environment. To address these concerns a series of safety experiments were undertaken. We report in this paper on the experimental data obtained, discuss the limitations of experimental risk assessment and focus on the necessity of including community concerns in scientific research.