Under the research center GHTM (Global Health and Tropical Medicine), the IHMT will create an unprecedented tool to measure literacy and gather the opinions of citizens on the use of genetically modified mosquitoes (GMM), in mainland Portugal and Madeira, as a measure to prevent the transmission of outbreaks of Dengue and Chikungunya.
These diseases are transmitted by two invasive species of mosquitoes, detected on the island of Madeira and in several European countries, including Spain. The release, in the environment, of GMM is a new approach for controlling mosquito populations and to prevent the transmission of diseases.
This strategy allows modifying mosquitoes, making them unfit for transmitting the virus or carrying a lethal gene, which when introduced in natural populations, lead to the reduction and possible elimination of the species.
However, the release of GMM presents ethical questions: is carried out in residential areas, given that the effectiveness of intervention depends on the perceptions, expectations and demands of residents.
The use of GMM involves complex concepts and specialized technical vocabulary, requiring a minimum level of literacy for the community to actively participate in public debate, prior to government approval of these strategies. It is noted, however, a marked lack of objective knowledge on these issues and the available information comes, usually, from biased sources, as activists and scientists who produce GMM.
The project, coordinated by Professor of IHMT Carla Sousa, and funded by the FCT, with the title “Dengue prevention using genetically modified mosquitoes –current facts, literacy and public opinions”. The project will be implemented in 36 months and will provide scientific information on these techniques and the impact on the community, as well as gather the opinions of citizens and policy makers.