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Current treatments for pediculosis capitis

Burgess, Ian F

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: April 2009 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 131–136
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e328322a019
Skin and soft tissue infections: Edited by Roderick J. Hay

Purpose of review Following the increase in prevalence of head lice during the 1990s, research interest in human louse infestation is now greater than at any time since World War I. Problems with treatment, resulting from the selection of populations of lice resistant to insecticides by overuse of some types of product, have triggered an interest in the development of novel therapeutic agents.

Recent findings This review first discusses the background to treatment options, basic diagnostic criteria for deciding whether treatment is required and the efficiency of different techniques. Following recent evidence for resistance to insecticides, alternative therapies are examined, including plant-derived essential and fixed oils that are seen by consumers as safer alternatives to pesticides, physically acting preparations and combing options.

Summary I have found that most diagnostic methods lack evidence of efficacy or effectiveness and the evidence for efficacy of several ‘popular’ options for alternatives to insecticides in treatment is either scant or missing. Claims related to the activity of some products need to be examined more deeply to determine whether they are of real value.

Medical Entomology Centre, Insect Research and Development Limited, Cambridge, UK

Correspondence to Ian F. Burgess, Director, Medical Entomology Centre, Insect Research and Development Limited, 6 Quy Court, Colliers Lane, Stow-cum-Quy, Cambridge CB25 9AU, UK Tel: +44 1223 810070; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.