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Scabies treatment ‘works for head lice’

Topical ivermectin can eliminate head louse infestations in patients just 24 hours after application, concludes a new study.

US researchers found that significantly more patients were free of live lice one day after the use of ivermectin compared with a control formulation without ivermectin – 94.9% and 31.3% of patients respectively.

This remained the case after seven days of treatment with ivermectin – 85.2% of patients were free of live lice compared with 20.8% using a control preparation.

Significantly more patients using ivermectin were also louse-free on day 15 of treatment than controls – 73.8% compared to 17.6% of participants.

The results come from a combination of two randomised controlled trials conducted on patients aged one to 51 years. All patients had a head louse infestation and had agreed not to use any other treatment during the study period.

The researchers concluded: ‘Topical ivermectin showed high efficacy within 24 hours, with most treated patients remaining louse-free through the final assessment two weeks after a single treatment without the need for nit combing.’

NEJM 2012, available online 1 November