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18 June 2003 (17:29)


By Bianca Nogrady


Head lice are constantly on the move around and between human bodies, according to a detailed Australian study of the movements of 1000 head lice.


As well as being easily transferred from one head of hair to another, head lice could also relocate to body hair and clothing to feed and breed, according to research in the Australian Journal of

Medical Science (May).


"Given optimal conditions, head lice readily transferred to the body and clothing, fed on the naked body, retreated into and laid eggs in clothing or body hair, from which viable nymphs hatched and in turn continued the life cycle," the researchers said.


Lice were also capable of shifting around with the host's slightest movement and were dispersed via a range of different mediums. These included the covering of a sofa, clothing, hats, towels and bedding, as well as onto another person's hair.


Their findings also confirmed that lice could be easily spread by close contact between children, contradicting earlier research that questioned this mode of transmission.


"Our findings that numerous head lice can be instantly transferred in a net-like action across forcibly rubbed hair tresses supports the conclusion that transmission occurs directly between children," the researchers told Australian Doctor.


"The quickest method by which medical practitioners could help families with the diagnosis would be by dry-hair parting, preferably with a powerful lamp-magnifier, and noting if egg deposits were continuing to be laid near the scalp-hair junction and along the outgrowing hairs."


Australian Journal of Medical Science    2003; 24:48-62.



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