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A Pilot Study of the Use of Oral Ivermectin to Treat Head Lice in Primary School Students in Australia

Authors

  • Marian J. Currie Ph.D.,

    1. Australian National University Medical School, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
    2. Academic Unit of Internal Medicine, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
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  • Graham J. Reynolds M.H.P.,

    1. Australian National University Medical School, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
    2. Academic Unit of Internal Medicine, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
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  • Nicholas J. Glasgow M.D.,

    1. Australian National University Medical School, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
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  • Francis J. Bowden M.D.

    1. Australian National University Medical School, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
    2. Academic Unit of Internal Medicine, Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT, Australia
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Address correspondence to Marian J. Currie, Ph.D., Academic Unit of Internal Medicine, Australian National University Medical School, Building 4 Level 2, Canberra Hospital, P.O. Box 11, WODEN ACT 2606, Australia, or e-mail: marian.currie@act.gov.au.

Abstract

Abstract:  Head lice are a common, costly public health problem worldwide. We aimed to determine the feasibility of an ivermectin intervention program. Consenting students in two schools were screened for head lice. Infested students and siblings at one school were offered a head lice fact sheet and two doses of oral ivermectin, 7 days apart. Parents of infested students in the other school were given the same fact sheet and asked to treat the child and siblings using their preferred topical treatment. Seven hundred two of 754 (93.1%) students enrolled in the two schools were screened; 40 (5.3%; 95% CI 3.7–6.9) had head lice; 31 (9.4%; 95% CI 6.1–12.2) in the intervention school and nine (2.5%; 95% CI 1.1–3.8) in the control school. Subsequently 93.6% of children in the intervention school were treated with oral ivermectin. No adverse events were reported. At 6 months the reduction in the head lice infestation rates for the intervention and control schools were 87% and 56%, respectively. This pilot study suggests that school wide screening for head lice and the administration of oral ivermectin is feasible and acceptable. A randomized controlled trial at 20 schools is planned.

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