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Vaccinate a house with... PAINT?

June 15, 2014

The nasty little critter in the image is called a vinchucas.  We had never heard of it until a news item from Latin America caught our eye.  Although it is unlikely this bug will ever find its way to the Golden Horseshoe, we thought we would expand on it to show how science is finding ways to make the world a better place, sometimes in peculiar ways.


The Problem


Homes in Latin America can be infested with vinchucas and they are a real menace to humans.  First of all, they tend to bight humans in the face, hence the nickname "the kissing bug."  


If infected, they can pass a disease called chagas to humans.  Identified by Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, the disease’s namesake, in 1909, chagas causes swelling, difficulty swallowing and some other minor irritations in the acute phase, which is the first few weeks after the infected bight.  The disease is rarely fatal in the acute phase, but after that, it settles into a more chronic phase and manifestations can occur decades after the infection.  And this is the real problem because it does sometimes cause sudden death due to cardiac dysfunction.


It is estimated that 7 to 8 million people throughout Latin America are infected with chagas currently.


The Solution... Vaccinate the home with PAINT


Pilar Mateo, a Ph.D. in chemistry who joined her family’s paint business in her native Valencia, Spain, has come up with a way to infuse house paint with insecticide.


The paint can then be used to cover the inside walls of homes, public places like hospitals, any place that has vinchucas infestation.


Deploying the new paint reduced infestation rates from as high as 90 percent to nearly zero. The paint is comprised of WHO-approved insecticides which kill mature insects as well as Insect Growth Regulators which kill eggs and young insects, bringing down the overall insect population. The paint retains its potency for several years.


The approach is proving effective in decreasing insect-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever. And... it is reducing populations of other insects: ants, bedbugs, cockroaches, scorpions, spiders, ticks, and more.


The new product, called Inesfly, is slowly gaining approval by the World Health Organization, and even though it will not benefit a lot of poor people who live in homes that have walls that cannot even be painted, (ie mud huts), it is a step in the right direction. 



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