Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY
IT is a scientific breakthrough which will be music to the ears of parents.
Welsh researchers believe antibiotics could successfully treat the scourge of nits after discovering human lice depend on a bacteria for survival.
The breakthrough could have implications for the treatment of nits and a range of serious diseases carried by body lice.
The findings, which were published last night in an American online journal, paves the way for new treatments.
But it is thought already developed but clinically obsolete antibiotics could kill the bacteria and therefore lice.
Researchers at Bangor and Reading universities discovered lice's weaknesses as part of an international project to sequence the louse genome. The teams of parasitologists at Bangor and Reading were responsible for sequencing the Candidatus Riesa pediculicola bacteria that lives inside lice and without which they cannot survive.
Human lice have adopted the bacteria, which lives in a small cavity inside their bodies, to enable them to gain the vitamins they need to survive, which they are no longer able to obtain from ingested human blood.
Dr Henk Braig, a molecular parasitologist at Bangor University's school of biological sciences, said: "We have established that these bacteria have no immunity to antibiotics as they have been isolated within the body of the lice and transmitted down the generations for millennia with no outside contact.
"Having had no other contact with external bacteria, they have had no need to develop resistance to antibiotics - as they would in the wider environment, in their struggle for survival and dominance."
Dr Braig and research colleague Dr Alejandra Perotti, from the University of Reading, have suggested that antibiotics which are no longer effective for other conditions could yet be used to treat both head and body lice. …