EcoScience Corp. announced Thursday that the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved formarketing and sale its biological cockroach control product.

The Bio-Path cockroach control chamber uses a naturallyoccurring, non-engineered soil fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae,to kill the roaches.

All a roach has to do is enter the chamber, where it picks upthe fungi, which are present as spores. "Initially, anelectrostatic charge causes the spores to attach to the cockroachcarapace," explained Kevin Devine, EcoScience's vice presidentof marketing and sales. "Then, through an enzymatic process,the fungi bore a hole through the cockroach's hard outer shell."Fungi are renowned for their chitinases, which are enzymesthat can chew up the main component of insect exoskeletons.

The exposed cockroach can then spread the fungi to othercockroaches horizontally through any direct contact. Anindividual cockroach will succumb to the internal infestation inabout three to five days, and "you can see a drop in thepopulation in seven to 10 days," Devine told BioWorld.

The Worcester, Mass., company (NASDAQ:ECSC) conductedtoxicology tests on the soil fungus, and found "no adverseeffects in man or animals, including companion animals. Thisensures that it can be used in sensitive areas, such as in homes,restaurants and food processing facilities," Devine said.

The product was before EPA for 22 months. This isn't unusual,given the fact that the average time it takes EPA to approve aproduct for biological pest control is from 12-24 months,Devine said.

EcoScience plans to begin shipping the Bio-Path cockroachchamber in a few weeks. Initially, the product will be madeavailable to consumers through professional pest controloperators (exterminators). The product "will fit nicely intointegrated pest management," Devine said.

Biosys is also manufacturing a biological cockroach trap for theconsumer market, using microscopic worm-like nematodes toattack the unsuspecting insects. Once inside the cockroaches,the nematodes release bacteria that kill the host but areharmless to humans, pets and other animals. The EPA evenexempted the nematode and its bacteria from all registrationrequirements.

Biosys (NASDAQ:BIOS) of Palo Alto, Calif., announced in mid-March that it had received a patent on the trap, and is testingits shelf-life and putting it through large-scale testing todetermine its commercial feasibility.

EcoScience's stock was up $1.25 a share on Thursday to $8.Biosys' stock was unchanged at $8.25 a share.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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