DengueChat: A Social and Software Platform for Community-based Arbovirus Vector Control

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  • 1 Department of Anthropology and Social Apps Lab, University of California, Berkeley, California;
  • | 2 Sustainable Sciences Institute, Managua, Nicaragua;
  • | 3 Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California

The mosquito Aedes aegypti transmits arboviral diseases at extraordinary rates. Dengue alone afflicts 50 to 100 million people each year, with more than 3 billion at risk globally. This indicates that current approaches to prevention and control are inadequate, and that a paradigm shift from one that largely promotes vertical chemical-based control and vaccine development to one that also concentrates on eliminating the mosquito through actions by the communities it plagues is necessary. We have developed a new social and software platform, DengueChat (denguechat.org), to advance community interventions in arbovirus vector control. It is an interactive platform combining open-source digital communication technologies with face-to-face assemblies. It promotes resident participation in evidence collection, reporting, and analysis, and it incorporates pedagogic information, key messaging, and game concepts to motivate communities to implement vector reduction strategies. Using DengueChat, we conducted a 19-month pilot study in five neighborhoods of Managua, Nicaragua. The results strongly suggest that using the software produced value-added features that enhance community engagement. We measured the entomological and behavioral impacts at different time points and relative risk reduction of entomological indices at the end of the study. The entomological results showed significant risk reductions in disease transmission: Ae. aegypti larvae and pupae indices were reduced by approximately 44% in neighborhoods using DengueChat during one epidemic year, whereas control neighborhoods experienced an increase of more than 500%. A cluster permutation test determined that the probability of household positivity was significantly reduced in neighborhoods that participated in DengueChat compared with the reference neighborhoods (P = 0.0265). Therefore, DengueChat is a promising resource for vector control.

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Author Notes

Address correspondence to Josefina Coloma, Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, School of Public Health, University of California, 1951 Oxford Street, 188 LKS, 185 LKS 500A, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail: colomaj@berkeley.edu

Financial support: The authors gratefully acknowledge funding for the development and implementation of DengueChat from the UBS Optimus Foundation (4841), the FIRST grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1071295/7615sc) and the Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud (482201/8031sc), USAID (AID-OAA-A-16-00048), and the Social Apps Lab and CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society) at the University of California, Berkeley.

Authors’ addresses: James Holston, Department of Anthropology and Social Apps Lab, University of California, Berkeley, CA, E-mail: jholston@berkeley.edu. Harold Suazo-Laguna, Community Projects, Instituto de Ciencias Sostenibles, Los Robles Etapa II, Managua, Nicaragua, E-mail: suazolagunaharold@gmail.com. Eva Harris, Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, E-mail: eharris@berkeley.edu. Josefina Coloma, Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, and Sustainable Sciences Institute, San Francisco, CA, E-mail: colomaj@berkeley.edu.

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