Super head lice have become resistant to standard over-the-counter treatments. A new study indicates that parents will likely have a lot more difficulty getting rid of the pesky buys if their children come home from school frantically itching their heads.
New head lice research suggests that the bugs have developed a “high level” of tolerance against the chemical treatments used to remove them from hair follicles. A study conducted at the Southern Illinois University found that super head lice have developed in 24 states and can withstand over-the-counter treatments currently recommended by pediatricians and schools.
“We are the first group to collect lice samples from a large number of populations across the United States,” Doctor Kyong Yoon of the Southern Illinois University, said. “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.”
Pyrethroids are reportedly part of a family of insecticides which are widely used both indoors and out to control mosquitoes and other varieties of insects. This classification of insecticides also includes permethrin – the active ingredient in some of the most non-prescription lice treatments.
According to Dr. Yoon, the super head lice problem has been moving towards a widespread problem for many years. The first pyrethroid-resistant lice cases presented during the late 1990s in Israel. Yoon was among the first to address the issue in the United States.
“I was working on insecticide metabolism in a potato beetle when my mentor, John Clark, suggested I look into the resurgence of head lice,” Yoon recalled. “I asked him in what country and was surprised when he said the US.”
Yoon began testing the lice for a series of genetic mutations known as “kdr.” The acronym stands for “knock-down resistance. The trio of mutations were reportedly first discovered during the late 1970s in common house flies. Farmers of the time started using pyrethroids rather than DDT to combat the problem.
Dr. Yoon found that many of the super head lice did possess the kdr genetic mutations. The mutation reportedly affects the nervous systems of insects and desensitizes them to pyrethroids.
The super head lice can still be killed using different chemicals, according to Yoon, but most of the products which can still get the job done require a prescription.
“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,” Dr. Yoon added.
Are you concerned about your child bringing home super head lice from school this year?
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