Nanotech to help fight against flystrike

Scientists say nanotechnology could reduce deadly flystrike in sheep.
Scientists in Queensland say new nanotechnology research could reduce deadly flystrike in sheep. -AAP Image

Flystrike costs the Australian sheep industry $173m a year, but nano-particles less than a thousandth of a millimetre in size could soon make it a thing of the past.

Scientists from the University of Queensland say new research involving nanotechnology could reduce incidences of deadly flystrike in sheep.

The UQ project is designing and testing silica nano-particles with surface spikes, with the hope of extending the time sheep are protected against flystrike and lice.

UQ research fellow Dr Peter James says the nano-particle can encapsulate the chemical used to combat flystrike before releasing it slowly over an extended period.

Dr James told AAP it is hoped the new research method will give sheep protection from flystrike for longer. 

"It's better for the sheep, it is safer for them to have extended periods of protection against flystrike. And it's good for the farmer because they don't need to treat as often," he said.

"It protects the sheep so if the fly does lay eggs the larvae would be killed by it.

"The particles also help protect the chemical from breakdown, because most chemicals in the fleece over a period of time breakdown due to sunlight, or sometimes they get leeched out of the fleece by rainfall."   

The technology would mean less chance of residue as well as reducing environmental contamination. 

"It's a significant practical advantage, both in terms of animal welfare and in terms of hopefully reducing labour," Dr James said.  

"Nanocapsules could also help counter the risk of blowflies developing resistance to treatment."

Chemical pesticides are traditionally delivered in relatively large doses to achieve longer protection, but the research could mean reducing the doses.

Dr James said the research is yet to reach its conclusion with more field trials and laboratory testing to be carried out.

"We've put it on sheep but those sheep weren't exposed to flies in the field," he said.