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Use of a poultry model to assess the transfer inhibition effect of head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) products


Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) remain a nuisance, predominantly in school age children. Despite the availability of pediculicidal products, children, after treatment, easily become re-infested if the outbreak has not been controlled on a class or school level. Lice repellents and re-infestation deterrents have been developed to protect children post-treatment. In vitro assays, which are used to evaluate the performance of these products, have limited correlation to in vivo efficacy. In this study, a chicken model was developed as an alternative to in vitro models, more closely mimicking the in vivo situation of children at school. Chickens with natural infestations of Menopon spp. and Menacanthus spp. were divided into three groups and co-housed for 23 h: Group 1 was treated with a commercial product designed to kill lice and protect from re-infestation (Oystershell Laboratories); group 2 was used to assess lice re-population onto lice-free, untreated chickens; and group 3, the seeder group, consisted of lice-infested chickens. The chickens were examined for lice before and at regular intervals after treatment. The group 1 chickens had an average of 40 lice pre-treatment, 0 lice post-treatment and did not become re-infested during the 23-h period. Lice were slow to re-populate the group 2 chickens but were seen 3 h after co-housing with an average of 6 lice each at the end of the study. Group 3 chickens maintained their lice throughout the study (average of 32 at end of study). Based on this study, chickens can be used as a model to test the performance of lice repellents and re-infestation deterrents.

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The authors acknowledge the contributions of the following Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine students for their assistance in this study: Danielle Shearer, Lucy Mays and Lucy Rose.

Conflict of interest

This study was funded by Oystershell Laboratories, of which, Kris Honraet is an employee. Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, of which, Jennifer K. Ketzis and Kathleen Clements are employees, funded the overhead costs for the study and was contracted to design an in vivo model for testing head lice products.

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Correspondence to Jennifer K. Ketzis.

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Ketzis, J.K., Clements, K. & Honraet, K. Use of a poultry model to assess the transfer inhibition effect of head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) products. Parasitol Res 113, 1943–1948 (2014).

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  • Head lice
  • Transfer inhibition
  • Repellency
  • In vivo model
  • Chickens