Hybrid mosquitoes? Evidence from rural Tanzania on how local communities conceptualize and respond to modified mosquitoes as a tool for malaria control

Marceline F. Finda*, Fredros O. Okumu, Elihaika Minja, Rukiyah Njalambaha, Winfrida Mponzi, Brian B. Tarimo, Prosper Chaki, Javier Lezaun, Ann H. Kelly, Nicola Christofides

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Different forms of mosquito modifications are being considered as potential high-impact and low-cost tools for future malaria control in Africa. Although still under evaluation, the eventual success of these technologies will require high-level public acceptance. Understanding prevailing community perceptions of mosquito modification is, therefore, crucial for effective design and implementation of these interventions. This study investigated community perceptions regarding genetically-modified mosquitoes (GMMs) and their potential for malaria control in Tanzanian villages where no research or campaign for such technologies has yet been undertaken. Methods: A mixed-methods design was used, involving: (i) focus group discussions (FGD) with community leaders to get insights on how they frame and would respond to GMMs, and (ii) structured questionnaires administered to 490 community members to assess awareness, perceptions and support for GMMs for malaria control. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the findings and thematic content analysis was used to identify key concepts and interpret the findings. Results: Nearly all survey respondents were unaware of mosquito modification technologies for malaria control (94.3%), and reported no knowledge of their specific characteristics (97.3%). However, community leaders participating in FGDs offered a set of distinctive interpretive frames to conceptualize interventions relying on GMMs for malaria control. The participants commonly referenced their experiences of cross-breeding for selecting preferred traits in domestic plants and animals. Preferred GMMs attributes included the expected reductions in insecticide use and human labour. Population suppression approaches, requiring as few releases as possible, were favoured. Common concerns included whether the GMMs would look or behave differently than wild mosquitoes, and how the technology would be integrated into current malaria control policies. The participants emphasised the importance and the challenge of educating and engaging communities during the technology development. Conclusions: Understanding how communities perceive and interpret novel technologies is crucial to the design and effective implementation of new vector control programmes. This study offers vital clues on how communities with no prior experience of modified mosquitoes might conceptualize or respond to such technologies when deployed in the context of malaria control programmes. Drawing upon existing interpretive frames and locally-resonant analogies when deploying such technologies may provide a basis for more durable public support in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Community engagement
  • Gene drives
  • Genetically-modified mosquitoes
  • Malaria elimination
  • Public perceptions


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