New, Nontoxic Lotion Suffocates Head Lice

Nuvo Lotion May Provide a Safe Alternative to Insecticides in Eliminating Head Lice

Sept. 7, 2004 -- A new "dry-on" lotion that coats and suffocates head lice and their eggs may offer a safer and less messy and bothersome alternative to traditional lice treatments.

A new study shows the nontoxic lotion cured 96% of the children with lice infestation and kept the lice away for at least six months in 94% of the cases.

The treatment, known as Nuvo lotion, is the first of a new class of nontoxic lotions to treat head lice called DSPs. The lotion is applied thoroughly prior to drying the hair to form an adherent film.

This "shrink-wrapped" film layer completely covers the louse, plugging its breathing holes and causes death by suffocation, explain the researchers. Once the lotion dries on the scalp, it is not visible and hair may be styled as usual.

Researchers say new treatments for head lice are needed due to the emergence of drug-resistant lice that are not killed by traditional insecticide-based treatments. Unlike the Nuvo lotion, the insecticide-based treatments can be toxic to the brain and nervous system.

In the study, published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics, 133 children with difficult-to-treat head lice infestations were treated with Nuvo lotion in two separate trials.

In the both trials, parents were instructed to 1) apply the lotion and wait two minutes; 2) comb out all the lotion possible; 3) dry the hair with a hand-held hair dryer; and 4) shampoo the child's hair at least eight hours after application.

In the first trial, parents were instructed to remove nits (lice eggs) with a nit-removal comb during step two, and in the second trial parents skipped this step.

The study showed that 97% of the children in the first trial and 95% of those in the second were successfully cured of their head lice after up to three treatments with the lotion, as demonstrated by a wet combing test that showed no lice and no symptoms. The five children who were not cured after the three treatments allowed by the study were all cured by completing a total of four treatments.

Overall, 94% of the children treated were also free of lice six months later.

"The simplicity of this method was welcomed by both parents and children," writes researcher Dale Pearlman, MD, of Family Dermatology Medical Office in Menlo Park, Calif., who holds the patents for the technology. "Parents reported that head-lice treatment without nit removal and without extensive household cleaning was not an overwhelming burden."

Although parents are often advised to vacuum any floors, put away plush toys, and launder clothes daily during lice treatment, researchers say lice are mainly transmitted from child to child via close contact of the children's heads rather than though the environment.