Parasitology Research

, 99:353 | Cite as

A new shampoo based on neem (Azadirachta indica) is highly effective against head lice in vitro

  • Jörg HeukelbachEmail author
  • Fabíola A. S. Oliveira
  • Richard Speare
Original Paper


Because topical compounds based on insecticidal chemicals are the mainstay of head lice treatment, but resistance is increasing, alternatives, such as herbs and oils are being sold to treat head lice. To test a commercial shampoo based on seed extract of Azadirachta indica (neem tree) for its in vitro effect, head lice (n=17) were collected from school children in Australia and immersed in Wash-Away Louse™ shampoo (Alpha-Biocare GmbH, Germany). Vitality was evaluated for more than 3 h by examination under a dissecting microscope. Positive and negative controls were a commercially available head lice treatment containing permethrin 1% (n=19) and no treatment (n=14). All lice treated with the neem shampoo did not show any vital signs from the initial examination after immersion at 5–30 min; after 3 h, only a single louse showed minor signs of life, indicated by gut movements, a mortality of 94%. In the permethrin group, mortality was 20% at 5 min, 50% at 15 min, and 74% after 3 h. All 14 head lice of the negative control group survived during the observation period. Our data show that Wash-Away Louse™ is highly effective in vitro against head lice. The neem shampoo was more effective than the permethrin-based product. We speculate that complex plant-based compounds will replace the well-defined chemical pediculicides if resistance to the commonly used products further increases.


Sorbic Acid Head Louse Usual Criterion Neem Tree Neem Extract 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank Chris Cahill for assistance in obtaining head lice. Wash-Away Louse™ neem shampoo was provided free of charge by Alpha Biocare GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany. Jorg Heukelbach was supported by an Endeavour Australia Research Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jörg Heukelbach
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Fabíola A. S. Oliveira
    • 1
  • Richard Speare
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Community Health, School of MedicineFederal University of CearáFortalezaBrazil
  2. 2.School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Departamento de Saúde Comunitária, Faculdade de MedicinaUniversidade Federal do CearáFortalezaBrazil

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