Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya or malaria affect millions of people each year and
control solutions are urgently needed. An international research program is currently being developed that relies on
the introduction of the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis
into Aedes aegypti
to control dengue transmission.
In order to prepare for open-field testing releases of Wolbachia
-infected mosquitoes, an intensive social research and
community engagement program was undertaken in Cairns, Northern Australia. The most common concern expressed
by the diverse range of community members and stakeholders surveyed was the necessity of assuring the safety of the
proposed approach for humans, animals and the environment. To address these concerns a series of safety experiments
were undertaken. We report in this paper on the experimental data obtained, discuss the limitations of experimental risk
assessment and focus on the necessity of including community concerns in scientific research.