Super Lice Meet Their Match

So-called “super lice” have met their match, according to researchers at the University of Utah.

Super lice is a term the mass media has adopted to refer to head lice that have developed resistance to the pesticides used in the most popular over-the-counter (OTC) lice treatment products. The products use a class of pesticides called Pyrethroids, and recent studies show that head lice in the United States have developed immunity to these products.

In 2014 the University of Massachusetts released the results of a study of the current resistance status of North American head lice. Researchers analyzed head lice DNA samples collected from 32 mostly urban locations across the United States and Canada. The study found that more than 88 percent of the lice found in both countries carried the specific “TI” gene mutation that is associated with the kind of nerve insensitivity that makes lice resistant to standard OTC head-lice medications.

This means that most head lice found in North America now carry a gene mutation that makes them resistant to what have been standard treatments for decades. As a result, more and more people are losing their battles against head lice, leading to serial infestations and very frustrated parents, children and educators.

While head lice are not considered a serious health threat to humans, roughly 10 percent of all American school-aged children miss school due to lice infestations. So where are parents to turn when their child comes home with head lice?

Alternative treatments for head lice are being developed on several fronts. There is some skepticism over the wisdom of investing in new pesticide-based treatments. After all, if head lice have developed immunity to one pesticide weapon, how long will it take before they can fight off the next one?

This is where the researchers at the University of Utah come in. They have taken an entirely different approach to head-lice treatment. Their approach is based on a medical device, not a pesticide, and was born out of an effort to keep lice alive, not to kill them.

The team was studying animal lice and found that the insects fared poorly in the arid desert environment. The lice commonly died of dehydration. When one of the researcher’s children came home with a case of head lice, and OTC products failed to remove them, he came up with the idea of attacking them by re-creating the circumstances killing animal lice in the lab.

Fast-forward a decade or two when the team unveiled the AirAllé medical device, a first-of-its-kind medical device used for killing lice. The device uses nothing more than hot air to dehydrate head lice on the spot, killing live lice and 99.2 percent of lice eggs, according to the clinical trial. The AirAllé device has been through rigorous trials and has been cleared by the FDA as a safe and effective means of treating head lice.

The AirAllé device is effective against so-called super lice because it doesn’t rely on pesticides or chemicals at all.

Lice Clinics of America treatment centers throughout the United States and around the world uses this new technology. Each clinic is staffed by trained, certified technicians. The entire treatment process takes place in a single 60- to 90-minute session and is guaranteed to be effective.

This is good news for parents who have struggled for weeks, months—and in some cases years—against head lice using products that don’t work.

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