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Oh how lovely: Drug-resistant HEAD LICE now plaguing U.S. children

Head lice

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(NaturalNews) U.S. officials are warning that drug-resistant head lice are extremely likely to be heading to a school district near you this year, HealthDay News reported recently.

So far, at least 25 states have reported drug-resistant head lice, which do not respond to common, over-the-counter treatments, according to a new analysis cited by the health news agency.

For the longest time, consumers have turned to permethrin, which is part of the pyrethroid class of insecticides, to combat head lice, mosquitoes, bedbugs and other insects. However, the analysis noted, continued exposure to permethrin has caused a large swath of the problematic insects to develop genetic mutations that wind up rendering the common treatment useless.

"It's a very classic resistance story," study lead author Kyong Yoon, an assistant professor in the biological sciences and environmental sciences program at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, wrote.

"Permethrin products were introduced to U.S. consumers in the early '90s," Yoon said. "But the first registered problem was reported from Israel in 1995, probably because they had it in use even earlier. Then in 2000 we found genetic mutations causing resistance in head lice here."

"100 percent resistance"

Head lice cannot fly or jump and are thus transmitted by direct physical contact. They are able to infest the neck and head very quickly, feeding on the host's blood and attaching their eggs to the base of hair shafts.

"They itch, but they do not transmit disease," said Yoon. "So it's not at all life-threatening, even if it's very frustrating and uncomfortable."

In the United States, 6 to 12 million children are infested with head lice annually, said Yoon, "with parents spending about $350 million [every year] on permethrin-laced over-the-counter and prescription treatments." Lice infestations are not limited to just poorer communities either, he noted.

For their study, Yoon and fellow scientists developed molecular diagnostic tools that made it possible to track American lice. The researchers said that results are still being collected from several states that have been evaluated thus far.

"We have found 100 percent resistance among 104 lice populations out of 109 we tested," Yoon said. "It's really alarming."

In 25 states that include Arizona, California, both Carolinas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts and Virginia, lice have developed what researchers have labeled "knock-down resistant mutations" – a triple-layered resistance formed by genetic alterations that make lice immune to any over-the-counter permethrin treatments.

Lice in four of the states examined – New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Oregon – have at least a partial resistance, Yoon and his team have discovered. But lice in Michigan have not developed such resistance to permethrin as of yet, though researchers are unclear as to why.

Yoon is to present his team's findings soon in Boston during a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Information and conclusions presented at such meetings most often are considered preliminary data until they are published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Not surprising

As HealthDay News further reported:

The good news is that prescription medications that don't contain permethrin remain effective against lice. These contain powerful agents such as benzyl alcohol, ivermectin, malathion and spinosad. Lindane shampoo is another alternative for difficult-to-treat cases.

"Prescription drugs will be pricier. But if you try and save time and money and treat it on your own it will probably get worse rather than better," Yoon told the health news site.

A professor of microbiology and pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, Philip Tierno, was not surprised at Yoon's findings. He said that, over the years as powerful pesticides were taken off the market, resistance has grown.

He noted that DDT, for instance, was withdrawn in the 1970s because of environmental concerns, and organophosphates deemed neurotoxic were restricted after 9/11 over government fears that they could be used by terrorists.

"Only pest control experts had access," Tierno said.

"That meant that lice and other things like bedbugs were constantly exposed to what we had left: permethrin. So they became resistant," he added.

As for a natural treatment for head lice, check out this report from Natural News.





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