More options emerge for the treatment of head lice.
Each louse is about the size of a sesame seed and can be hard to spot. Lice eggs, called nits, are glued onto hairs near the scalp and can be even harder to see. To survive, head lice must feed off a living body. Head lice cannot fly or flop, are not airborne, and cannot live in water very long away from their host after a bath or shower.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infestations of lice (pediculosis and pthiriasis) are spread most commonly by close person-to-person contact. Dogs, cats and other pets do not play a role in the transmission of human lice. Lice--adult head lice are 2.1 to 3.3 mm in length--move by crawling. Head lice are most common in young children in day care, preschool or elementary school. Children in these age ranges play together in close contact and are more likely to have "hair-to-hair" contact as well. They are also more likely to share brushes, hats and hair clips. Adults who live with young children of those ages also have a higher risk of attracting head lice.
Treatments for head lice infestations are available in prescription medications as well as over-the-counter remedies. Getting rid of lice once and for all has become a more difficult proposition since the rise of super lice, a term given to strains of lice that have developed resistance to pyrethroids, the type of pesticide commonly used in O-T-C treatments to kill lice.
Total U.S. drug sales for parasite treatments--which include lice--topped $79.4 million for the 12-week period ended July 9, according to IRI. Tec Laboratories, with sales of $4.5 million for the period--up 4.4%--is a leading O-T-C pharmaceutical manufacturer that specializes in innovative topical applications.
After launching Tecnu, the company's flagship outdoor skin cleanser product, Tec Laboratories expanded the Tecnu line to cover such ailments as poison oak, insect bites and other skin irritations. Recently the company developed the Licefreee! line of nontoxic head lice solutions, which the company says solves head lice infestation quickly and effectively without using chemical pesticides altogether.
Another new O-T-C lice treatment comes from San Antonio-based Mission Pharmacal. Lycelle, previously available only through prescription, is the company's newest brand. What's unique about Lycelle, according to Phillip Dritsas, the company's senior vice president and general manager of the consumer division and specialty markets, is that it kills lice without pesticides. "We're very excited about this product," Dritsas says. "We have national distribution at Walgreens, Rite Aid and others, and we are doing a lot to get the word out, including taking the product to school nurses."
According to Lice Clinics of America, expanded research published in 2016 revealed that lice samples from 48 states carried the pesticide-resistant genes. Kyong Yoon, a biologist at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, and John Clark, a professor of veterinary and animal sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, have been researching lice for 15 years. Their research has found that over that period lice have become more and more resistant to pyrethroid products. In one report, Yoon and Clark noted that studies from 1995 indicated that permethrin, a medication and insecticide used to treat lice, was at least 96% effective. However, recent reports are showing efficacy rates dropping to as low as 28%. In 2015, Yoon stated that there was a "high chance" that children infected with lice were infected with the strains resistant to O-T-C remedies.
Though the term super lice conveys the idea that these particular strains of lice are indestructible, they are not. They are resistant to only one type of treatment, and such methods as combing and nitpicking, according to Lice Clinics of America, can still be very effective, albeit tedious and time consuming.
Costs associated with head lice, according to Mission Pharmacal, are as estimated at $1 billion annually in the U.S.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children with head lice should still attend school, but they should avoid head contact with other children.
Caption: Nonprescription, pesticide-free lice remedies are gaining favor.