Researchers use community-based approach to fighting dengue fever

October 19, 2012
Community combats dengue fever
The mosquito Aedes aegypti. Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

(Medical Xpress)—Developing community consultation strategies based on local expectations and concerns can overcome misgivings about programs of biological control, even if that community was the place where the cane toad was first released.

Flinders Public Health researcher and social anthropologist Dr Darlene McNaughton headed a community consultation program that preceded the first field trials aimed at eliminating by infecting the vector with a that prevents them from transmitting the disease.

Before field trials could take place, researchers needed to gain approval from residents in Cairns and in the two selected suburbs, chosen for their comparative isolation. One of them, Gordonvale, is next to the Little Mulgrave River, the location for the ill-fated release of the .

Dr McNaughton's report on the results of this process for the anti-dengue trial has been published in the journal PLOS Neglected .

The result of the two-year research and consultation program saw 86 per cent of the residents give permission for the trial to go ahead.

Dr McNaughton said the process was highly collaborative and aimed to provide multiple opportunities for residents to discuss and debate the science, the trials and their . It enabled the aims of the research to be explained, and also provided a range of often new information about dengue fever and the mosquito (Aedes aegypti, pictured) that transmits it.

An initial round of direct contact enabled a wide range of concerns and issues raised by the residents to be identified and answered.  These were incorporated into the design of the formal engagement and consultation.

"And as the scientists admitted, the questions they asked were very good questions indeed," Dr McNaughton said. The issues often mirrored those being explored by the scientists, including efficacy and duration.

More than 140 community presentations also enabled a range of misconceptions to be corrected – as well as mistaken beliefs about the types of mosquito that carries the fever, many people did not realise that dengue is a human virus and that the mosquitoes act only as inadvertent transmitters.  There was also a mistaken belief that the mosquitoes travelled long distances and bred in swamps, puddles and creeks, when in fact their range is very localised and focuses on water holding containers at sites of human habitation.

Part of the successful strategy was to present the information face-to-face and to give comprehensive information that included both pros and cons, Dr McNaughton said.

"People didn't want slickly packaged media campaigns. They saw the opportunity to ask questions, discuss, debate and detail what they expected to see in place before they would give their approval as being very important, including independent assessment of the science and approval by a government regulator.

"Talking to people directly and over a period of time, identifying these issues and acting on them really helped to show respect, and build trust and mutual understanding," she said.

Because the composition and circumstances of local populations will always be different, Dr McNaughton said that it is important that systematic social research be used to inform and assess the consultation process.

"If projects plan to use open field trials, they need to be aware of and responsive to the needs, expectations, concerns, desires and knowledge of the communities whose backyards they hope to use as open laboratories."

Explore further: Brazil to breed GM mosquitoes to combat dengue

Related Stories

Brazil to breed GM mosquitoes to combat dengue

July 10, 2012
Brazil said Monday it will breed huge numbers of genetically modified mosquitoes to help stop the spread of dengue fever, an illness that has already struck nearly 500,000 people this year nationwide.

Specialized mosquitoes may fight tropical disease

August 24, 2011
Scientists have made a promising advance for controlling dengue fever, a tropical disease spread by mosquito bites. They've rapidly replaced mosquitoes in the wild with skeeters that don't spread the dengue virus.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.