Tag Archives: pediculus

Nitpicking

I’ve been doing some reading lately, mainly on the subject of World War I and it naturally brings to mind topics for this website ….. this time “lice”.

Why are we not able to eradicate parasites such as lice?  Surely if the little blighters do not have a host to live off then they die therefore minus the hosts and we shouldn’t have issues of lice, yes?

I guess it is the age old problem of compliance … there is always a host somewhere who is not willing or able to get rid of them and therefore continues to spread them to those who spend many hours and much money to de-louse their children (mainly) from these wriggly little pests.  I am referring in general to head lice which seem to be a fact of life throughout most kids journey through primary school however with the very popular “selfie” causing a surge in cases in older age groups also.  It is the sort of nuisance that if everyone cared enough to treat and eradicate then we should be able to get rid of ……

The head louse ( Pediculus humanus capitis) is essentially a harmless pest.  It is a wingless insect which spends its entire life on the head of a host feeding off small amounts of blood.  They cannot fly or jump and do not transmit disease although they can be responsible for secondary infections of the skin due to scratching.  They are simply a nuisance and one that should be able to be eliminated from our society.

Body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis and sometimes Pediculus humanus humanus), common during the Great War, are far more dangerous due to their potential to transmit  diseases such as typhus and trench fever.  The two species are physically very similar, almost indistinguishable, but do not interbreed however they have been known to under laboratory conditions.  Again a parasitic pest that should be able to be eliminated with adequate hygiene practises.

If the world can eradicate smallpox (Variola virus – declared obsolete by the WHO in 1979) then why can we not do the same with our Pediculus friends?  Just as we needed the “buy in” of people to get vaccinated against smallpox we should be able to get their “buy in” to de-louse.