Mutant Lice Outbreak on Cue with Back-to-School Season

You didn't think you'd have to worry about lice already, did you? Turns out that "super-strains" of lice that may be resistant to common treatments have broken out in 25 states.

Parents are encouraged to comb and check their kids' hair for lice as usual. If you notice your child does have lice, experts are encouraging you to switch to prescription medications rather than common over-the-counter treatments, as these particular strains of lice have developed a resistance to common chemical treatments. Experts are also telling parents not to panic, as these results are preliminary.

lice resistant
(Photo: Researchers are finding that head lice that are becoming resistant to OTC treatments. Red states: 100 percent of the tested lice were resistant. Orange states: 50 to 90 percent of lice were resistant. Yellow states: 1 percent to 49 percent were resistant. Blue states: Data hasn't been analyzed yet. White states haven't been tested. // Photo Credit: Southern Illinois University)

A research team at Southern Illinois University took lice samples from 30 states and discovered mutated strains of lice in 25 states. "If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance,” Kyong Yoon, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University, said in a statement. “So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don’t carry disease. They’re more a nuisance than anything else.”

The specific mutation in these bugs, "knock-down resistance," has been known to protect other insects from pesticides and chemical treatments. However, the study did not test any lice-removal treatments on the lice.

At least one expert said the findings were interesting but that it was too preliminary to say for sure that the mutant lice are also drug resistant and causing a widespread problem.


For more tips on treating lice, click here.

>> Read more: Back to School: 6 Tips to Get the Kids Pumped