When I was a kid, there was nothing I hated more than the school head lice check. Now, I never had lice, but I always felt indignant that they were going to go through my hair with a literal fine-tooth comb in a chair in the gymnasium, then repeat the process with several hundred other children in the hopes of keeping the nits at bay. I know they found people with it at various times, but it never became the feared epidemic. Now, if it did break out in a huge rash of cases, the drugs most commonly used to treat it might be for naught. Drug-resistant mutant head lice have been spotted in 25 states, with more research to come.
The lice have developed what is known as “knock down resistance”, which means they may not be killed as effectively by the over-the-counter treatments usually used to kill head lice. It’s similar to the resistance some house flies have to certain pesticides. Of course, just because the mutation exists that doesn’t mean it’s going to actually work. And just because there’s some resistance, that doesn’t mean it’s anything to be worried about.
“If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance,” said Kyong Yoon, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University who led the study on head lice that discovered the mutants. “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.”
Tags: lice, head lice, drug resistant head lice, mutant head lice, head lice resistant to drugs, southern illinois university, Kyong Yoon, drug-resistant head lice found in 25 states, mutant head lice in 25 states, unusual pests, unusual parasites, knock down resistance