Small-scale release of non-gene drive mosquitoes in Burkina Faso: from engagement implementation to assessment, a learning journey

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Malaria Journal
Background: Innovative tools are needed to complement the existing approach for malaria elimination. Gene drive mosquitoes are one potential new technology in the control of malaria vectors. Target Malaria is one of the research projects developing this technology, and in July 2019, the project proceeded to an important step for this evaluation pathway: the small-scale release of non-gene drive sterile male mosquitoes in a village in Burkina Faso. In addition to the entomological and laboratory work to prepare for this important milestone, significant community and stake holder engagement work was done. The existing guidelines on gene drive mosquito provide an overall framework for such engagement work. However, they do not provide a road map on how to proceed or what benchmarks should be used to assess this work. Methods: This study provides a review of engagement activities relevant to field trials on non-gene drive genetically modified mosquitoes as well as an assessment framework—using both qualitative and quantitative studies as well as an audit procedure. The latter was implemented to evaluate whether the release activities could proceed with the appropriate level of agreement from the community. Results: This paper shows the importance of this first phase of work to innovate and learn about engagement processes for responsible research in the field of genetic approaches for malaria vector control. The function of these assessments is crucial for the learning agenda. The assessments demonstrated ways to increase understanding and ensure effective progress with field studies and, therefore, the pathway for responsible research. Conclusion: Gene drive technology is increasingly considered as a promising approach to control vector borne diseases, in particular malaria. Stakeholders’ involvement in this research process is one of the recurring requirements in international guidance documents. With this paper Target Malaria offers an opportunity to explore the practical achievements and challenges of stakeholder engagement during early phases of a technology evaluation, and in particular how it implemented an assessment framework to learn from its experience.
Malaria, Genetically modifed mosquitoes release, Gene drive, Stakeholder engagement, Responsible research, Evaluation, Audit, Souleymane Kekele, Wilfrid Meda, Burkina Faso, Université Nazi Boni, CEA-ITECH_MTV, ACE: Bio-technological Innovation for the Elimination of Vector- Borne Diseases