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Body lice licked by tick killer.


Research undertaken by the U.S. government and a Bethesda, Md., university has demonstrated that fabric treated with the insecticide permethrin will kill body lice even after the fabric has undergone 20 machine washings. The Uniformed Services University researchers, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, found that all of the lice present during the treatment were killed within two hours of exposure to a permethrin-treated cloth.

The main problem associated with body lice, other than the incessant itching, sores and fever they produce, is the transmittal of typhus and relapsing fever, diseases uncommon in the U.S. but common to American service personnel stationed in other countries. Typhus fever, a predominant illness among World War II concentration-camp prisoners, is usually not fataltoday, although its symptoms (headache, fever and muscle aches) can be extremely discomforting.

The idea for treating fabric with insecticide is not new. Servicemen have been marching in uniforms treated with permethrin ever since it was discovered the bug spray protected them against ticks and mosquitoes. Being insects themselves, body lice also don't stand a chance against the wrath of permethrin. Whether the chemical would destroy head lice more commonly found in children was not discussed, but seems an interesting possibility. Will it be possible one day to see the advent of caps impregnated with permethrin should an epidemic of Pediculosis break out? No word has appeared yet on potential toxic side effects of such a procedure. (U.S. Department of Agriculture Quarterly Report, October-December, 1988.)
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Title Annotation:permethrin-impregnated fabric
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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