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Coating May Paint Away Pestilence

Monday, August 6, 2012

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Developers of a remarkable paint are amassing significant evidence that the coating can wipe out infestations of insects that carry deadly diseases in Latin America and Africa.

The product of years of research—including personal testing by the researcher, who lived in infested villages—the paint, known as Inesfly, has produced dramatic results, reducing infestation rates by 90% in some areas, according to the developer’s case studies.

 International experts have conducted monitoring and assessment of the coating, including measuring the life span of its active ingredients.

 Dr. Pilar Mateo

International experts have conducted monitoring and assessment of the coating, including measuring the life span of its active ingredients.

The technology was developed by Dr. Pilar Mateo, a Spanish chemist. As part of her research, Mateo took hundreds of cans of the coating to a Bolivian village, where she oversaw the painting of Inesfly on the inside and outside of village huts. (She also lived in the infested village.)

Years of international monitoring and assessments have followed, all of it detailed on Mateo’s website. The site also includes documentation of her research methodology and the coating’s efficacy.

Blood-Sucking Parasites

The insecticide-laced paint takes aim at two insect-borne scourges of the developing world: Chagas disease and malaria.

Chagas disease is a widespread “sleeping sickness” known as “the AIDS of the poor.” Incurable and often fatal, the disease is transmitted by a parasite that is carried by large, biting, blood-sucking insects known as vinchuca that live in thatched roofs and mud walls.

 Chagas disease is called  the “AIDS of the poor,” which afflicts millions of people in Central and South America.


The paint has proved effective against insects that carry Chagas disease, the “AIDS of the poor,” which afflicts millions of people in Central and South America.

Infected vinchuca live and breed in homes from north of Mexico to south of Argentina. An estimated 11 million people in that region are believed to be infected with Chagas disease.

Mateo’s research brought home the frightening reality of the vinchuca infestation.

“I started to live with the vinchucas,” she writes on her website, “to come face to face with them at night, to observe how they crept down at night to suck blood (just like vampires), and I knew I had to formulate a product which would be able to tackle the bug both outside and inside the precarious dwellings of Latin America.”

How it Works

Inesfly, developed by a Spanish company called Inesba, features polymeric microcapsules that allow for the incorporation of active principles such as conventional biocides, insect growth regulators, repellants, attractants and natural oils in biopolymers.

The “polymeric microencapsulation” is carried out in an active mold of CaCO3 and TiO2 and incorporated into a coating that allows for slow release of the active ingredients, increasing persistence over time.

 Inesfly application

Dr. Pilar Mateo 

Inesfly was applied to exterior and interior walls. In some areas, it wiped out infestations by 90 percent.

Applied to exterior and interior walls, the water-based paint-and-pesticide combination kills insect eggs and their young—something that traditional insecticides do not do, developers say.

As a coating, Inesfly has been found to resist alkalinity, high temperatures, UV radiation, adverse weather conditions, water, and wet scrubbing, while retaining adhesion. The solvent-free coating offers gradual, controlled release of the insecticide for four years, testing has shown.

Fighting Infestations

The company maintains that the product is harmless to humans—and, in fact, produces far less toxic pesticide exposure than conventional spraying—and the New York Times reports that the coating has wiped out an infestation of vinchuca in one Bolivian village.

The product has been formulated with World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Schemes (WHO PES) in mind, but WHO has not yet approved the product as a disease control method.

Other agencies have, however. The Ghana Standards Authority and Environmental Protection Agency recently approved Inesfly as “safe and effective in the eradication of mosquitoes and insects.”

Mosquitoes infected with a parasite called Plasmodium spread malaria, which kills 655,000 people each year—about one child each minute in Africa.

Production to Ramp Up

Inesfly “is changing the way we understand vector-transmitted disease and its prevention,” says Javier Lucientes Curdi, a parasitologist at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, who has been evaluating the product in Africa:

The coating maker is currently building a €10 million factory in Africa that will begin producing the paint by January 2013, reports say.

The company is also working toward approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and hopes to market the paint in the U.S. as a tool to control cockroaches or ants, the Times reports.


Tagged categories: Coatings technology; Health and safety; Research; TiO2; Waterborne coatings

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