Loosening lice and breaking their grip on hair
Scientists have found that, contrary to the popular myths about
hair texture, hygiene and social background, lice can affect anybody’s
hair. Young children are particularly susceptible, primarily because
they share things like hats and hairbrushes, which can harbor
Craig N. Burkhart, M.D. M.S.B.S., leading author of a study that
appeared in the July 2005 issue of the Journal of the American
Academy of Dermatology, and a member of staff at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Dermatology, has
said that lice can infest anybody. Lice are equal opportunity
infectious agents, they affect people of all ages, sexes, races
and socioeconomic levels. Therefore, preventive measures against
lice infestation should be taken by everyone.
Craig N. Burkhart, along with Craig G. Burkhart, M.D., M.P.H.,
Clinical Professor, Division of dermatology, Medical University
of Ohio at Toledo, extensively reviewed research work on lice
and discussed the current and prospective treatments in the field.
The researchers have observed that the available treatments used
to kill the eggs of lice are not that effective and, perhaps,
the lice have attained some resistance against the chemicals used
in these treatments. Consequently, there is an increasing prevalence
of lice in certain locations throughout the world. It is already
known that lice, like many other insects, apply a protective coating,
or glue as it often called, over their newly laid eggs. This is
also sometimes referred to as the nit sheath. This coating is
made up of a protein that is similar to that of human hair, and
thus serves to protect the developing larva. However, this means
that anything that would be effective at dissolving the nit sheath
also would dissolve the hair shaft.
The Doctors have suggested that a treatment that could prevent
the glue from solidifying on the nit sheath would prevent the
egg from adhering to the hair. Such treatment would be beneficial
to both people with lice infestation and those who are trying
to avoid acquiring one. Alternatively, a liquid paraffin preparation,
similar to that used to prevent bird eggs from hatching, also
could possibly suffocate the larvae by severely decreasing the
flow of oxygen to them. The researchers are anticipating that
new treatments would be able to break the bonds that attach the
egg to the hair shaft and thus allow for easier nit removal, rather
than insecticidal treatments that kill the lice and their eggs.
Nevertheless, a new treatment undergoing study, the insecticide,
ivermectin, in a topical form in an oil base also shows great
There are some recommendations from the scientists for the parents
of young children to take care and avoid the attack of lice. First
of these recommendations is to avoid head-to-head contact at school
and also at home with other children. The second recommendation
cautions not to share combs, brushes, hats, scarves, bandanas,
ribbons, barrettes, hair ties or bands, towels, helmets, or other
personal care items with anyone else. This should be done strictly
whether they have lice or not, to greatly reduce the possibility
of lice infestation. The third and last recommendation is not
to lie on bedding, pillows, and carpets that have recently been
used by someone with lice. Parents should examine members of the
household who have had close contact with a person who has lice
every three or four days.
Lice are a potential threat for almost everybody and particularly
for young children, but care and some preventive measures can
reduce the risk of infestation. Studies that help to understand
the working more can help a lot in the future of prospective treatments.
These recommendations are provided by the American Academy of
Dermatology, which was founded in 1938, and is the largest, most
influential, and most representative of all dermatological associations,
and undertakes many programs to make people aware about the effects
of lice and the treatments available to avoid it.
lice and breaking their grip on hair references
- Burkhart CN, Burkhart CG.
Head lice: scientific assessment of the nit sheath with clinical ramifications
and therapeutic options.
J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Jul;53(1):129-33.