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Human pediculosis, a global public health problem

Fu, Yi-Tian; Yao, Chaoqun; Deng, Yuan-Ping; Elsheikha, Hany M.; Shao, Renfu; Zhu, Xing-Quan; Liu, Guo-Hua

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Yi-Tian Fu

Chaoqun Yao

Yuan-Ping Deng

Renfu Shao

Xing-Quan Zhu

Guo-Hua Liu


Background: Human pediculosis is caused by hematophagous lice, which are transmitted between individuals via direct and/or indirect contact. Despite the public health importance of louse infestation, information concerning the global burden of pediculosis and the epidemiological landscape of louse-borne diseases is limited. The aim of this review was to summarize the biology, epidemiology, diagnosis, and control of lice infestation in humans. We also discussed the latest advances in molecular taxonomy and molecular genetics of lice. Methods: We searched five electronic bibliographic databases (PubMed, ScienceDirect, CNKI, VIP Chinese Journal Database, and Wanfang Data) and followed a standard approach for conducting scoping reviews to identify studies on various aspects of human lice. Relevant information reported in the identified studies were collated, categorized, and summarized. Results: A total of 282 studies were eligible for the final review. Human pediculosis remains a public health issue affecting millions of people worldwide. Emerging evidence suggests that head lice and body lice should be considered conspecific, with different genotypes and ecotypes. Phylogenetic analysis based on mitochondrial (mt) cytb gene sequences identified six distinct clades of lice worldwide. In addition to the direct effect on human health, lice can serve as vectors of disease-causing pathogens. The use of insecticides plays a crucial role in the treatment and prevention of louse infestation. Genome sequencing has advanced our knowledge of the genetic structure and evolutionary biology of human lice. Conclusions: Human pediculosis is a public health problem affecting millions of people worldwide, particularly in developing countries. More progress can be made if emphasis is placed on the use of emerging omics technologies to elucidate the mechanisms that underpin the physiological, ecological, and evolutionary aspects of lice.


Fu, Y., Yao, C., Deng, Y., Elsheikha, H. M., Shao, R., Zhu, X., & Liu, G. (2022). Human pediculosis, a global public health problem. Infectious Diseases of Poverty, 11(1), Article 58.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 11, 2022
Online Publication Date May 26, 2022
Publication Date 2022-12
Deposit Date May 27, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 27, 2022
Journal Infectious Diseases of Poverty
Electronic ISSN 2049-9957
Publisher Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 1
Article Number 58
Keywords Infectious Diseases; Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health; General Medicine
Public URL
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