Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Back-to-School Warning: Head Lice Now Resistant to Treatment in 25 States

Health + Wellness

As a new school year starts, the American Chemical Society had some lousy news. Researchers found that lice populations in at least 25 states have developed resistance to over-the-counter treatments still widely recommended by doctors and schools. The researchers presented their findings yesterday at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

“We are the first group to collect lice samples from a large number of populations across the U.S.,” says Kyong Yoon, Ph.D at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. “What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids.”

Pyrethroids are a family of insecticides that are commonly used to treat head lice. One of those, permethrin, is the active ingredient in many anti-lice treatments. Yoon became one of the first to highlight the problem in the U.S. back in 2000, but the first report on this development came from Israel in the late 1990s. Yoon has been testing lice for a trio of genetic mutations known collectively as kdr, which stands for “knock-down resistance.”

In Yoon's most recent report, he collected population samples of lice from 30 states. Twenty-five of those states had all three genetic mutations—meaning they are the most resistant to pyrethroids. In some samples, including ones from California, Florida, Maine and Minnesota, every insect in the sample had resistance genes. “It’s almost saturated with [these genes], which means that people using permethrin and pyrethrin based products will probably have a very hard time controlling the lice,” says Yoon.

Read page 1

Samples taken from four states—New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon—had one, two or three mutations. The only state with a population of lice still largely susceptible to the insecticide was Michigan. Yoon says, why lice haven't developed a resistance in Michigan is still under investigation. His research is ongoing and he plans to collect samples from every state.

Head lice is far more common than many may think. Six million to 12 million U.S. children are infested with head lice every year, "with parents spending about $350 million dollars annually on permethrin-laced over-the-counter and prescription treatments," Yoon said. And contrary to the stereotype, lice infestations occur in rich neighborhoods as well as poor ones. “It’s a really, really serious problem right now in the U.S.,” Yoon told TIME. Though head lice aren't known to carry any diseases, they can be very irritating and very difficult to get rid of.

It's not just head lice, though. Pesticide-resistance is a major problem in agriculture as well. So what is to be done? How can we combat these pesticide-resistant bugs?

“If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance,” Yoon says. “So we have to think before we use a treatment."

If pyrethroid-based treatments don't work, he suggests using a prescription drug, such as ivermectin or spinosad. Still, we have to be careful not to swap one chemical out with another, warns Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University, because lice will just develop a resistance to these other chemicals over time.

"The good news is head lice don’t carry disease," says Yoon. "They’re more a nuisance than anything else.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Nation’s First School District to Serve 100% Organic, Non-GMO Meals

Are Microplastics in Your Salmon Filet?

8 Surprising Health Facts About the Superfood Spinach

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less