How head lice alter the scalp microbiota

There have been quite a few articles in the press about gut microbiome or microbiota. As a result, people have some understanding that it plays an important role in human health. 

Microbiota are ‘communities’ of microorganisms that exist in and on the human body. These microorganisms include viruses, bacteria and fungus (plants and animals have them too) in their make-up.

Where is it on the body?

Microbes and bacteria usually live predominantly in the guts. Some of them can also be found on your skin, in your mouth, in your nose. Millions of these tiny organisms live within us, and we collectively call them human microbiota.

Why is microbiota important?

These microorganisms have an essential role in the body – to fight off infection. If they are altered or disrupted, then our bodies defences are at risk.

Alterations in scalp microbiota due to head lice

In September 2019 a research paper published by Brazilian academics in the Journal ‘Infection, Genetics, and Evolution’ studied whether head lice (pediculus humanus capitis) affected the microbiota on a child’s scalp.  

The study compared two groups of schoolchildren: group A had head lice, and group B did not. They collected samples by swabbing the scalp and incubated the fungal microbiota to enable them to survive for examination.

The research paper stated there was a marked difference in the bacterial and fungal species found in the two groups. Additionally, the study found there were particularly high levels of Staphylococcus capitas in the scalps of those children who had head lice.

The study concluded that children with head lice had scalp alterations. This merited future studies to analyse the impact this can have on human health, and especially the developing health of our children.

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