“The head louse Pediculus humanus capitis (De Geer) (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae) is a cosmopolitan human ectoparasite causing pediculosis, one of the most common arthropod parasitic conditions of humans. The mechanisms and/or chemicals involved in host environment recognition by head lice are still unknown. In this study, we evaluated the response of head lice to volatiles that emanate from the human scalp. In addition, we identified the volatile components of the odor and evaluated the attractive or repellent activity of their pure main components.
The volatiles were collected by means of Solid Phase microextraction and the extract obtained was chemically analyzed by gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer. Twenty-four volatile were identified in the human scalp odor, with the main compounds being the following: nonanal, sulcatone, geranylacetone, and palmitic acid. Head lice were highly attracted by the blend human scalp volatiles, as well as by the individual major components. A significant finding of our study was to demonstrate that nonanal activity depends on the mass of the compound as it is repellent at high concentrations and an attractant at low concentrations. The results of this study indicate that head lice may use chemical signals in addition to other mechanisms to remain on the host.”
J Med Entomol. 2018 Jan 20.