New Device for Killing Head Lice
"LouseBuster" Said to Kill Lice in 30 Minutes Without Chemicals
Nov. 6, 2006 -- A hairdryer-like device kills head licein 30 minutes without the use of chemicals, University of Utah
Called the LouseBuster, it kills 98% of head lice eggs (or nits) and 80% of
hatched lice -- enough to keep them from reproducing, researchers report in the
November issue of the journal Pediatrics.
"We think it's killing the lice and eggs by desiccating them -- drying
them out," says Dale Clayton, PhD, co-author of the study. Clayton is a
professor of biology at the university and co-director of the university's
Center for Alternate Strategies of Parasite Removal.
He says the device could be on the market in two years or less.
The Pest Problem
Head lice are more of a nuisance than a health threat.
They affect more than 6 million Americans each year, often children, Clayton
estimates, accounting for 12 million or more missed school days.
The pests are about the size of a sesame seed and can spread quickly through
a school as children's heads come into contact during play, or as they share
hats, combs, and brushes.
Parents often use multiple shampoo treatments or special combs to rid their
children of lice so they will be allowed back in school.
The new device blows out twice as much air as a normal hair blow dryer,
The temperature is about 138 degrees Fahrenheit, he says, a little cooler
than a typical blow dryer.
Attached to the hose of the LouseBuster is a molded plastic hand piece with
coarse teeth, which is pulled through the hair slowly while hot air blows in
the opposite direction. This exposes the hair roots, where the nits attach.
"This is quite an assault on a tiny insect," he says. He compares it
to the louse standing in a hurricane-force wind.
Once off its host, the louse can't survive more than 24 hours, Clayton
Clayton's team compared six different methods of hot air treatment on 169
people infested with head lice and found the
LouseBuster with the hand piece worked best.
A handheld blow dryer, for instance, killed nearly 98% of the eggs just like
the LouseBuster but only 55% of the lice, compared with the LouseBuster's
A week after treatment, Clayton examined 11 of the 18 patients treated with
He found 10 had no lice. The other person had one male louse, meaning the
infestation was doomed, since the male could not lay eggs.
Clayton is chief scientific officer at Larada Sciences, a University of Utah
spin-off company that is developing the LouseBuster commercially.
He says the device could be sold to clinics and schools, where staff can be
trained to operate it.
"We're excited about finally developing an approach that is safer than
chemicals and has claims of efficacy that we feel are coming from reliable
research," says Deborah Altschuler, president of the nonprofit National
Pediculosis Association, based in Needham, Mass. The association helped fund
Early detection of lice and manual removal are recommended by the
association, Altschuler says. "Shampoos are not 100% effective and lice
have developed resistance."
Another expert, W. Steven Pray, PhD, says he wishes the study had been done
differently. "They didn't test [the LouseBuster] against proven
therapies," says Pray, the Bernhardt Professor of Nonprescription Products
and Devices in the College of Pharmacy at Southwestern Oklahoma State
University in Weatherford.
An example is the LiceMeister Comb, already endorsed by the National