Scientists find 104 out of 109 head lice populations have high gene mutations& resistance to treatments
With the new school year just around the corner, parents are being warned to prepare, with their children, for a possible battle to drug-resistant ‘super head lice’.
Almost every species of nits have virtually become immune to all standard treatments prescribed by doctors and pharmacists.
The scourge of head lice is all too common for parents when their children go back to school every year, with some having to take days off school in case they spread.
Normally a dose of lice-killing shampoo and some serious hair brushing tends to sort the problem out – but scientists believe that the over-use of the chemical treatments have made the bugs resistant.
Dr Kyong Yoon from the Southern Illinois University revealed: “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.”
Their resistance to pyrethroids – a group of pesticides that are used to control mosquitoes and household critters – is thought to be to blame.
The resistance to these pesticides had been predicted by Dr Yoon, who first theorised about the prospect of super lice in 2000.
He 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.
The hair-scratching bugs have developed genetic mutations – known as kdr or ‘knock-down resistance’, believed to be caused by using the same chemicals repeatedly.
Head lice grow to about the size of a sesame seed and are passed on through hair contact.
A child with head lice will have an itchy head and may develop a rash down the back of their neck as a result of reaction to lice droppings.
According to the NHS website, the best treatment is to brush the nits out with specially-designed combs.
One in three children aged 4-11 are infected throughout the year.