Can you drown head lice?

Updated: May 2, 2018

A very interesting trial conducted by the prestigious Physicians Weekly

Parasite (Paris, France) 2018 03 0925() 8 doi 10.1051/parasite/2018015 Abstract Chemical, physical, and mechanical methods are used to control human lice. Attempts have been made to eradicate head lice Pediculus humanus capitis by hot air, soaking in various fluids or asphyxiation using occlusive treatments. In this study, we assessed the maximum time that head lice can survive anoxia (oxygen deprivation) and their ability to survive prolonged water immersion. We also observed the ingress of fluids across louse tracheae and spiracle characteristics contrasting with those described in the literature. We showed that 100% of lice can withstand 8 h of anoxia and 12.2% survived 14 h of anoxia; survival was 48.9% in the untreated control group at 14 h. However, all lice had died following 16 h of anoxia. In contrast, the survival rate of water-immersed lice was significantly higher when compared with non-immersed lice after 6 h (100% vs. 76.6%, p = 0.0037), and 24 h (50.9% vs. 15.9%, p = 0.0003). Although water-immersed lice did not close their spiracles, water did not penetrate into the respiratory system. In contrast, immersion in colored dimeticone/cyclomethicone or colored ethanol resulted in penetration through the spiracles and spreading to the entire respiratory system within 30 min, leading to death in 100% of the lice.



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