Biotech's Answer To Fleas: Bomb Them With Creepy Crawlies

Poor Rover. Americans collar him, spray him, bathe him, powder him, and even flea-bomb the whole house--to the tune of nearly $1 billion every year. But there Rover sits: scratch, scratch, scratch. Getting rid of fleas is especially difficult because their early life cycle takes place outdoors, which is where flea eggs hatch. So, even after pet lovers kill the live fleas on their dog or in the house, come the next hatch, the buggers are back.

Now, Biosys, a small Palo Alto (Calif.) biotechnology company, is going after fleas outdoors--but without using the harsh chemicals that consumers often fear might harm children or pets. Using so-called beneficial nematodes, or tiny worm-like creatures that can invade a pest's body, Biosys is launching BioFlea. Sprayed in the backyard, the nematodes enter the eggs and larvae, release a deadly bacteria, then eat the dead organism. Fleas can't become resistant, as they do to traditional chemicals, because there are no chemicals--just microscopic predators.

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