• Mutiny of the Mutant Lice!

    Mutant Lice- ResearchMama


    Yup, we’ve been hearing about it for a month now: Mutant lice.

    Within the first 6 months of my now 3yr old being in day care, we received TWO email notifications of cases of head lice in her school. While I never experienced it as a child, and I wasn’t particularly concerned about her…   just the mention is enough to make me itchy and paranoid.

    But even that was before they started this back-to-school prep talk about mutant lice. Oh joy! In reality, this definitely isn’t a new phenomenon, or a new concern- just a recent study that *gasp!* typical OTC lice products aren’t as effective as they used to be! Guess that means we need to break out the big bucks and get a super-killer prescription…

    Before you start saving up for the newest drug on the market, consider the true alternative without putting your money in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies… and worrying about who-knows-what-kind of side effects.

    The first question is:  Is the hype even legit?

    Quick Answer:  yes and no. (hahahaha)

    Let’s take a look at the info…

    First the reports-

    “The insecticides in these products are supposed to work by getting into the nerve cells of lice and changing the cells’ chemistry in a way that leads to muscle paralysis and eventually death. However, there are lice that randomly have mutations in genes that make them less susceptible to these insecticides, said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University. It is not clear how, but it could be that these genetic changes cause insect nerve cells to take up less insecticide or to pump more of it out of the cells.

    A new study by the same researchers who did the 2014 study suggests these resistance genes could be widespread in the United States. They studied 109 lice populations from 30 states, each population representing insects from several people. Out of those 109 populations, 104 (95%) contained insects that possessed the genes.”

    Mutant lice are probably coming! But first, the hype [http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/18/health/mutant-lice/]

    Honestly, I’m more or less going to quote almost the whole article right here because it is actually hilarious…

    “Even if resistant lice are becoming more common, the infestations they cause are no worse than those of other head lice, except they can be harder to get rid of. ‘No one ever died of a head lice infestation,’ said Frankowski, who is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and co-wrote its 2010 clinical report on head lice.

    If parents hear from the school nurse or their pediatrician that children have not been getting better after they use the Rids and Nixes on the market, it could be an indication there is lice resistance in the area.

    There are also a number of prescription treatment options, including Sklice, Ovide and Natroba. All use different types of chemicals than permethrin and pyrethrin, and thus lice that are resistant to over-the-counter treatments should not be resistant to them.

    These treatments cost between $100 and $200, plus the co-pay to see a doctor for the prescription, compared with $10 or $20 for over-the-counter shampoos, Frankowski said. Some insurance companies will cover the cost, but often only after you have failed to get relief from the nonprescription options, she said.”

    Mutant lice are probably coming! But first, the hype [http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/18/health/mutant-lice]

    SO, basically, even though these lice are becoming resistant to the OTC drugs on the market, you should keep using them (essentially perpetuating the problem), OR, you can spend a bunch of money on our new costly prescription.

    Here’s the kicker:

    “‘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,’ said Kyong Sup Yoon, associate professor of biological sciences and environmental sciences at Southern Illinois University, who led the research for the current study and the 2014 study.

    Yoon’s research was funded by Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company that owns Sklice lotion, which contains a newer generation lice-fighting chemical.”

    Mutant lice are probably coming! But first, the hype [http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/18/health/mutant-lice]

    The 2014 Yoon study referenced here:

    Knockdown resistance allele frequencies in North American head louse (Anoplura: Pediculidae) populations. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24724296]

    The moral of the story:

    1. Lice are mutating
    2. Lice are becoming OTC resistant
    3. Keep using OTC
      1. Lice become more resistant
    4. Buy prescriptions when OTC fails

    I’ll hold the sarcasm.

    So the truth of the matter is…   Lice are mutating and becoming resistant. But this is not new news. This will be evident from the dates and information on the studies for alternative treatment.

    For quick reference here are the current CDC suggested treatments:

    Over-the-counter Medications

    Many head lice medications are available “Over-the-counter” without a prescription at a local drug store or pharmacy. Each Over-the-counter product approved by the FDA for the treatment of head lice contains one of the following active ingredients. If crawling lice are still seen after a full course of treatment contact your health care provider.

    1.Pyrethrins combined with piperonyl butoxide;

    Brand name products: A–200*, Pronto*, R&C*, Rid*, Triple X*.

    2. Permethrin lotion, 1%;

    Brand name product: Nix*.


    So what is the alternative treatment?  3 words:  Tea Tree Oil.

    Just to be clear, there are other oils that are effective in the destruction of lice including eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint, but the real winner here is TTO, and this is why:

    “The peculicidal activity of eight plant essential oils in 75% isopropyl alcohol was in vitro investigated. Of them, the substances that were most active against lice were tea tree (Melaleuca), eucalyptus, neem, citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), and clove (Syzygium aromaticum) oils; KT50 was not more than 3 minutes on average; KT95 was 4 minutes. After evaporating the solvent, only five (tea tree, cassia, clove, anise (Anisum vulgare), and Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) oils) of the eight test botanical substances were active against lice. At the same time, KT50 and KT95 showed 1.5-5-fold increases. Citronella and anise oils had incomplete ovicidal activity. Since the lice were permethrin-resistant, the efficacy of preparations based on essential oils was much higher than permethrin.” [Emphasis added]

    Peculicidal activity of plant essential oils and their based preparations. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25296426]

    ^^ The awkward thing about this reference is that I’m pretty sure it is spelled wrong. Aside from that point, note “lice were permethrin-resistant,” this study from 2014. Also, “ovicidal activity” refers to the eggs.

    “Head lice infestation is an emerging social problem in undeveloped and developed countries. Because of louse resistance increasing, several long-used insecticidal compounds have lost their efficacy, and alternatives, such as essential oils, have been proposed to treat this parasitic infestation. The present study investigated the efficacy of two natural substances: tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil and nerolidol (3,7,11-trimethyl-1,6,10-dodecatrien-3-ol) against lice and its eggs. Products were used alone and in combination (ratio 1:1 and 1:2) from 8 % dilution. The in vitro effect of natural substances at different concentrations were evaluated against 69 head lice (adults and nymphs) and 187 louse eggs collected from school children in Chieti-Pescara (Central Italy) over a 6-month period. The lice mortality was evaluated for 24 h by a stereo light microscope. The ovicidal activity was monitored by microscopic inspections for 15 days. Tea tree oil was more effective than nerolidol against head lice with 100 % mortality at 30 min and 1 % concentration. On the contrary, nerolidol expressed a more pronounced ovicidal activity inducing the failure of 50 % of the eggs to hatch at 1 % concentration after 4 days; the same effect was achieved by using a twice concentration of tea tree oil. The association of the two substances both in ratios 1:1 and 1:2 combined efficaciously their insecticidal and ovicidal effect; in particular, the ratio 1:2 (tea tree oil 0.5 % plus nerolidol 1 %) acted producing both the death of all head lice at 30 min and the abortive effect of louse eggs after 5 days. These results offer new potential application of natural compounds and display a promising scenario in the treatment of pediculosis resistant cases. The development of novel pediculicides containing essential oils could be, in fact, an important tool to control the parasitic infestation.” [Emphasis added]

    Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggs [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22847279]

    This study is pretty impactful to me and here’s the takeaway:

    1. Dated November 2012
    2. Note “louse resistance increasing”
    3. This study takes in to account killing lice and eggs
    4. TTO was 100% EFFECTIVE after 30 minutes at a 1% concentration
    5. TTO with a 2x concentration was 50% effective against eggs after 4 days

    And what really kills me is that all these studies say “potential” “promising” “development of… containing.”

    Please, why is it impossible to admit that this IS, as shown by your study, EFFECTIVE all on its own?

    The first study above referenced permethrin resistance. Here is one regarding the other OTC active ingredient pyrethrin:


    The percentage of subjects who were louse-free one day after the last treatment with the product containing tea tree oil and lavender oil(41/42; 97.6%) and the head lice ‘suffocation’ product (40/41, 97.6%) was significantly higher compared to the percentage of subjects who were louse-free one day after the last treatment with the product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (10/40, 25.0%; adj. p < 0.0001).


    The high efficacy of the TTO/LO product and the head lice ‘suffocation’ product offers an alternative to the pyrethrins-based product.”

    A randomised, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children–melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a “suffocation” product. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20727129]

    In short, maybe you should skip the OTC and go straight to the oil, the Tea Tree Oil. 

    In an effort to not make this a mile long post, I’ve really only offered references for TTO. However, there is an array of essential oils that have shown effectiveness in the battle against lice, the battle that OTC products are failing fast. Please know that you do not need to jump in right away and spend a ton of money on some prescription for these lice jerks, especially if they are new drugs and who knows what the full potential of side effects could be.

    Other EOs to look in to are Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Peppermint.


    I’m going to make mention of Radiantly You here for 2 reasons:

    1. Tea Tree Oil Shampoo Bar:
      • Ingredients: Aqua, Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil*, Sustainably Harvested Palm Oil*, Castor Oil, Olive Oil (Pomace), Sodium Hydroxide, Tea Tree Essential Oil, Cinnamon*
    2. Essential Oil Bug Away:
      • Ingredients: Witch Hazel, Aqua, Tea Tree Essential Oil, Lavender Essential Oil, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Peppermint Essential Oil*, Citronella Essential Oil, Cedarwood Essential Oil

    I don’t even think I need to say much more about that! Only that many have been using the Shampoo Bar with their kids as preventative, and recently a fellow IWG made mention of using the Bug Away as well. I hadn’t considered that before, but look at the ingredients! My only suggestion would be if you do want to try that, definitely put it on at night– because the oil scent can be strong, the time for the scent to dampen would be good, particularly if there are other children that could have allergies to the oils. I’m not sure how common they are, but I know that they do exist.

    For more information on Essential Oils (I definitely don’t have them all!) let me know and I’ll get you in touch with someone.

    Oh, and have a great school year!!


    ResearchMama Cp)Who is “Research Mama?” I’m a mom who discovered a passion for the blessings of nature. After experiencing the benefit of natural remedies over prescriptions, I became very curious about the claims of the natural community and the verification behind it.

    This is my blog to help share the information that I have found that solidifies the claims that you see time and time again. I hope you will receive the information with an open mind and note that I’m sharing it for the sole purpose of validating that it is there. Anyone reading it can make their personal choice to utilize it or not. That’s it!

    Feel free to let me know if you have any topics for consideration!

One Responseso far.

  1. Jacquie says:

    Good stuff.

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