Sunday 25 September 2016

Super head lice warning as scientists confirm all species are becoming immune to common treatments

Published 19/08/2015 | 10:30

Scientists of Southern Illinois University believe parents should be more wary of the bugs than in the past
Scientists of Southern Illinois University believe parents should be more wary of the bugs than in the past
Head louse: pediculus humanus capitis

As the new school year looms, scientists have voiced their concerns that many species of head lice are becoming immune to common pharmacy treatments.

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New research has suggested that head lice have developed a high level of resistance to popular treatments which may be a worry for parents as childrenbegin to return to school next week.

Scientists of Southern Illinois University believe parents should be more wary of the bugs than in the past as tests proved they now can conquer the methods which previously annihilated them.

Doctor Kyong Yoon, of Southern Illinois University, said: "We are the first group to collect lice samples from a large number of populations across the United States.

"What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids."

Pyrethoids are insecticides commonly used to keep mosquitoes at bay. Permethrin is an ingredient in many over the counter head-lice treatments.

Head louse: pediculus humanus capitis
Head louse: pediculus humanus capitis

Read more: Top tips to rid the kids of head lice

Dr Yoon said: "I was working on insecticide metabolism in a potato beetle when my mentor, John Clark, suggested I look into the resurgence of head lice.

"I asked him in what country and was surprised when he said the US."

The scientist tested head lice for three kinds of genetic mutations, known as KDR, which stands for knock-down resistance. The research found that many lice have developed these mutations over decades, which affect their nervous system desensitising them to pyrethroids.

The study involved gathering lice from 30 US states including Texas,, Florida and Maine and found that lice in 25 states were resistant to pyrethoids.

Read more: 5 things every parent wishes the crèche would do

Samples from New York, New Jersey and New Mexico were found to be less resistant to popular treatments.

"If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance,” said Dr Yoon.

"So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don't carry disease. They're more a nuisance than anything else."

The findings are due to be presented at the 250th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

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