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Perspectives of people in Mali toward genetically-modified mosquitoes for malaria control


Abstract Background Genetically-modified (GM) mosquitoes have been proposed as part of an integrated vector control strategy for malaria control. Public acceptance is essential prior to field trials, particularly since mosquitoes are a vector of human disease and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) face strong scepticism in developed and developing nations. Despite this, in sub-Saharan Africa, where the GM mosquito effort is primarily directed, very little data is available on perspectives to GMOs. Here, results are presented of a qualitative survey of public attitudes to GM mosquitoes for malaria control in rural and urban areas of Mali, West Africa between the months of October 2008 and June 2009. Methods The sample consisted of 80 individuals - 30 living in rural communities, 30 living in urban suburbs of Bamako, and 20 Western-trained and traditional health professionals working in Bamako and Bandiagara. Questions were asked about the cause of malaria, heredity and selective breeding. This led to questions about genetic alterations, and acceptable conditions for a release of pest-resistant GM corn and malaria-refractory GM mosquitoes. Finally, participants were asked about the decision-making process in their community. Interviews were transcribed and responses were categorized according to general themes. Results Most participants cited mosquitoes as one of several causes of malaria. The concept of the gene was not widely understood; however selective breeding was understood, allowing limited communication of the concept of genetic modification. Participants were open to a release of pest-resistant GM corn, often wanting to conduct a trial themselves. The concept of a trial was reapplied to GM mosquitoes, although less frequently. Participants wanted to see evidence that GM mosquitoes can reduce malaria prevalence without negative consequences for human health and the environment. For several participants, a mosquito control programme was preferred; however a transgenic release that satisfied certain requirements was usually acceptable. Conclusions Although there were some dissenters, the majority of participants were pragmatic towards a release of GM mosquitoes. An array of social and cultural issues associated with malaria, mosquitoes and genetic engineering became apparent. If these can be successfully addressed, then social acceptance among the populations surveyed seems promising.

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