Nanotech could rid cattle of ticks, with less collateral damage

The new insecticide uses nanoparticles to kill ticks, with minimal harm to the environment(Credit: Shutterstock)

If you've ever used tick medicine on your dog, then you're probably aware of how toxic the stuff is. Well, it's used on cows too, and it can end up in their meat, milk, or the surrounding environment. Fortunately, however, scientists at the National University of Mexico have developed a new type of tick treatment for cattle that is reportedly much less toxic than what's currently used.

According to the university, conventional tick-killing insecticides can be absorbed by the cow's gastrointestinal tract. From there, they make their way not only into the muscle tissue and milk, but are also passed in the manure – there, they can kill both grass and insects such as bees.

Additionally, some tick strains in Mexico are building up a resistance to some of the most commonly-used insecticides. This means that many cattle-treatment products consist of a mixture of chemicals, which drives the price up and increases the toxicity.

The new externally-applied preparation, developed by a team led by chemists Enrique Angeles Anguiano and Fernando Alba Hurtado, utilizes an unnamed type of nanoparticles to kill ticks at all of their life stages – egg, nymph, pupa and adult.

It's said to be easy to synthesize (it's done in a single step), and is 99.5 percent effective while still retaining low toxicity. It is not absorbed into the cow's digestive tract, and is reportedly not harmful to the environment or to people handling it.

The university and Mexico's QSAR Analytics are now looking for industrial partners to help commercialize the technology.

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