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Orientation of Head Lice on Human Hosts, and Consequences for Transmission of Pediculosis: The Head Lice Movement Studies

Department of Community Health, School of Medicine, Federal University of Ceará, Fortaleza CE 60430-140, Brazil
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
Department of Hygiene and Microbiology, Charité Medical School, Campus Benjamin Franklin, D-10117 Berlin, Germany
Parasitology unit, Department of Zoology University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
In memoriam.
Academic Editor: John Frean
Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2017, 2(2), 11;
Received: 13 March 2017 / Revised: 11 May 2017 / Accepted: 15 May 2017 / Published: 22 May 2017
PDF [2708 KB, uploaded 22 May 2017]


We performed head lice movement studies to elucidate factors influencing orientation and movement of head lice. Studies included observation of lice movements on hand and forearm at different positions of the upper limb; movements exposed to unshaved and shaved forearm; and movements with and without antennae. In 57 of 60 (95.0%) observations while holding the hand down, lice moved proximal, and 3 (5%) distal. While holding the hand up, 37/60 (61.7%) moved proximal, and 23 (38.3%) distal (p < 0.0001). On the unshaved limb, 29/30 (96.7%) moved proximal, with clockwise movements in 26/30 (86.7%). After shaving, 9/30 (30%) walked proximal and 18 (60%) distal, with 12/30 (40%) clockwise movements. After antennectomy, while holding the hand up, 16/25 (64%) lice did not move, 1 (4%) walked proximal, and 8 (32%) distal. While handing the hand down, 17/25 (68%) did not move, 5 (20%) walked proximal, and 3 (12%) distal. Transmission of head lice may not only occur by head-to-head contact, but also via head-to-body contact, with movement to the head against gravitational pull. Surface factors of hand and forearm may be important in orientation for lice, in addition to gravity. Movement of lice against gravity is not governed by organs in the antennae. View Full-Text
Keywords: Pediculus humanus capitis; head lice biology; entomology Pediculus humanus capitis; head lice biology; entomology

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Heukelbach, J.; Asenov, A.; Araújo Oliveira, F.; Araújo de Melo, I.L.; Dos Santos Queiroz, J.; Speare, R.; Ugbomoiko, U.S. Orientation of Head Lice on Human Hosts, and Consequences for Transmission of Pediculosis: The Head Lice Movement Studies. Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2017, 2, 11.

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Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. EISSN 2414-6366 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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