Cover your kids' heads - super lice are coming!

Head lice
Head lice

March is traditionally the season when the menace that is head lice spreads like wildfire through schools and communities in South Africa.

And experts warn that this season could be the worst yet because the type of bug we're going to have to deal with is known as 'super lice' - a evolved species that will be much harder to eradicate.

A study published in the March 2014 issue of Journal of Medical Entomology, a publication of the Entomological Society of America, brought the issue to light and say humans created these super bugs through prolonged and incorrect usage of traditional lice removal products.

With incorrect they mean either not using the solutions long enough, or not using enough of it. 

Read: What exactly are head lice

How did head lice become super lice?

What the researchers found is that they are particularly resistant to Permethrin, a common ectoparasiticide used in anti-lice preparations.

In the early 1990s, over-the-counter permethrin-based formulations entered widespread use, John Clark, a professor of environmental toxicology and chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is a co-author on the study, said.

Designed to kill lice by essentially short-circuiting their nervous system, such drugs became the standard of care.

He says that relentless exposure to a single treatment option has given rise to a surviving head lice population that is virtually impossible to kill with what we have available at the moment.

Read: Symptoms of head lice

"This isn't really controversial," said Clark. "This is a problem we've been showing in development over a period of about 20 years.

But our new work now shows that head lice are now almost 100 percent resistant.

That means there's an awful lot of resistant insects out there..." 

They concluded that there is now a huge need for new treatments and two of these are called Ulesfia or Natroba, available via prescription from your GP.

In the meantime, experts suggest people use natural products such as Tea tree oil or Neem to control the problem. 

Read more:
The creepy crawlies on our skin that we're stuck with for life

Read up on the common misconceptions about head lice

Hair-raising facts about head lice"

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