Our childhood nightmares have returned to haunt us all — except this time, any typical courses of treatment have been rendered entirely useless. “Super lice,” as they’ve ominously been dubbed, have taken over 25 states, and they’re no longer responding to the old fashioned wash ‘n’ rinse.
“We are the first group to collect lice samples from a large number of populations across the U.S.,” said Kyong Yoon, Ph.D, in a statement. “What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids.” Pyrethroids are the synthesized chemical insecticides that include permethrin, the active ingredient used to treat lice.
To be clear, the super lice have developed an immunity to these.
As Salon points out, a piece from Mark Woolhouse and Jeremy Farrar last year raised grave concerns about antimicrobial resistance. “Every class of antibiotic is increasingly compromised by resistance, as are many antivirals, antiparasitic and antifungal drugs,” they write at Nature. “It could get worse: routine medical care, surgery, cancer treatment, organ transplants and industrialized agriculture would be impossible in their present form without antimicrobials. And the treatment of many infectious human and livestock diseases now relies on just one or two drugs.”
For now, doctors are prescribing prescription treatment for children found to have contracted the mutant lice, and they’re thankfully not shown to cause any further health complications.