(April 20th, 2017) Ticks and bedbugs are an increasing health problem worldwide. The EU-supported BETITEX project has come up with a solution: an environmentally and human-friendly textile that protects against these unwanted “guests”.
According to the World Health Organization, over one million people worldwide are killed each year by mosquitoes, lice, ticks and fleas – vectors of diseases, such as Lyme Borreliosis (Lyme disease) and Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE). Since 2014, numbers recording the common tick (Ixodes ricinus) have risen significantly in Central Europe, while in the USA there has been a 70% increase in bedbug spread since 2000. Behind these increases are international human migration, global warming and the development of insecticide resistance. Also bedbugs are suspected of transmitting infectious agents. There is some concern they might help transmit Chagas disease or hepatitis B but, currently, there's no confident data to support this claim under natural conditions.
At the moment, our best weapons against ticks and bedbugs are biocide-based repellent sprays. Due to their toxic side-effects to both humans and the environment, however, European legislation allows only a handful of these repellents to be sold on the European market. Other solutions are desperately welcome. One might be imminent from an exciting consortium of companies and research laboratories from all over Europe. Launched in November 2013 and lasting 36 months, the BETITEX project, supported with €1 million from the EU, is aimed at developing sustainable textiles, which protect against ticks and bedbugs.
The project's work plan included a variety of activities, including the selection of the most effective biocides (tested in the lab through in vitro feed screening tests); the selection of textile raw materials (taking into account the bugs' presence, habitat and hazards) and, most importantly, definition of the biocides' incorporation and its release. The latter was realised through a microencapsulation technique. Here, the biocide is encased in a protective coating, which releases the biocide in a safe and controlled manner – in contrast to the old school repellent sprays. Sol-gel nano capsules, in situ and interfacial polymerisation are the three high-tech subtypes of microencapsulation used by BETITEX.
“In most prototypes, a 100 % mortality rate of ticks and bedbugs was obtained in less than 24 hours. Furthermore, during the project a synergistic effect was achieved, combining specific biocides with specific embedding and application technologies on different fabrics. Another important point to highlight is that the biocides we used are not the ones most commonly found in products that are already on the market, such as outdoor clothing protecting against ticks and mattress covers protecting against bedbugs. In addition, the key results have been obtained not only at the laboratory scale but also at the industrial scale,” concludes the project coordinator of BETITEX, Ariadna Detrell.