Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Flammability testing of 22 conventional European pediculicides


Lice have been parasitizing humans for at least 10,000 years. Since then, humans have tried to rid themselves of these unpleasant and potentially disease-carrying insects. Despite various plant extracts and chemical compounds being used to combat recurring infestations to this date, several lice populations have developed resistance to some of the abundantly used compounds. This resulted in the development of anti-louse products that physically kill the different lice stages. Today, a widely used group of delousing agents are dimethicones (polydimethylsiloxane PDMS) which function by suffocating the lice. However, many dimethicones and related products are highly flammable which makes them potentially dangerous for treatment. In the present study, we tested the flammability of 22 delousing agents in order to shed some light onto this currently unresolved problem in the product design of pediculicides. Thirteen products were easily ignitable, some even by distant contact with a sparkler.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Change history

  • 28 October 2017

    The original publication of this paper contains an error.


  1. Abbo A, Navon-Venezia S, Hammer-Muntz O, Krichali T, Siegman-Igra Y, Carmeli Y (2005) Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. Emerg Infect Dis 11(1):22–29

  2. Abdel-Ghaffar F, Abdel-Aty M, Rizk I, Al-Quraishy S, Semmler M, Gestmann F, Hoff N-P (2016) Head lice in progress: what could/should be done—a report on an in vivo and in vitro field study. Parasitol Res 115(11):4245–4249

  3. Angelakis E, Diatta G, Abdissa A, Trape J-F, Mediannikov O, Richet H, Raoult D (2011) Altitude-dependent Bartonella quintana genotype C in head lice, Ethiopia. Emerg Infect Dis 17(12):2357–2359

  4. Araújo A, Ferreira LF, Guidon N, Maues da Serra Freire N, Reinhard KJ, Dittmar K (2000) Ten thousand years of head lice infection. Parasitol Today 16(7):269

  5. Arriaza B, Orellana NC, Barbosa HS, Menna-Barreto RFS, Araujo A, Standen V (2012) Severe head lice infestation in an Andean mummy of Arica, Chile. J Parasitol 98(2):433–436

  6. Ascunce MS, Toups MA, Kassu G, Fane J, Scholl K, Reed DL (2013) Nuclear genetic diversity in human lice (Pediculus humanus) reveals continental differences and high inbreeding among worldwide populations. PLoS One 8(2):e57619

  7. Bacot A (1916) Notes on Pediculus humanus (Vestimenti) and Pediculus capitis. Br Med J 1(2892):788–789

  8. Badiaga S, Brouqui P (2012) Human louse-transmitted infectious diseases. Clin Microbiol Infect 18(4):332–337

  9. Bayard T (1985) Sweet herbs and sundry flowers: medieval gardens and the gardens of the cloisters. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 1985

  10. Boutellis A, Abi-Rached L, Raoult D (2014) The origin and distribution of human lice in the world. Infect Genet Evol 23:209–217

  11. Boutellis A, Drali R, Rivera MA, Mumcuoglu KY, Raoult D (2013) Evidence of sympatry of clade a and clade B head lice in a pre-Columbian Chilean mummy from Camarones. PLoS One 8(10):e76818

  12. Boutellis A, Veracx A, Angelakis E, Diatta G, Mediannikov O, Trape J-F, Raoult D (2012) Bartonella quintana in head lice from Senegal. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 12(7):564–567

  13. Bouvresse S, Socolovshi C, Berdjane Z, Durand R, Izri A, Raoult D, Chosidow O, Brouqui P (2011) No evidence of Bartonella quintana but detection of Acinetobacter baumannii in head lice from elementary schoolchildren in Paris. Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis 34(6):475–477

  14. Brouqui P, Raoult D (2006) Arthropod-borne diseases in homeless. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1078(1):223–235

  15. Bryceson AD, Parry EH, Perine PL, Warrell DA, Vukotich D, Leithead CS (1970) Louse-borne relapsing fever. Q J Med 39(153):129–170

  16. Bunch BH, Hellemans A (2004) The history of science and technology: a browser’s guide to the great discoveries, inventions, and the people who made them, from the dawn of time to today. Houghton Mifflin, Boston

  17. Busvine JR (1948) The head and body races of Pediculus humanus L. Parasitology 39(1–2):1–16

  18. Busvine JR (1978) Evidence from double infestations for the specific status of human head lice and body lice (Anoplura). System Entomol 3(1):1–8

  19. Buxton PA (1940) The control of lice. BMJ 2(4165):603–604

  20. Carraher CE, Pittman CU (2004) Organometallic compounds in biomedical applications. In: Abd-El-Aziz AS (ed) Biomedical applications, Wiley-Interscience, vol 3. Hoboken, NJ, pp 1–18

  21. Chosidow O (2000) Scabies and pediculosis. Lancet 355(9206):819–826

  22. Cutler SJ (2006) Possibilities for relapsing fever reemergence. Emerg Infect Dis 12(3):369–374

  23. Dayagi-Mendels M (1993) Perfumes and cosmetics in the ancient world. Israel Museum Catalogue 1993(395)

  24. Drali R, Shako J-C, Davoust B, Diatta G, Raoult D (2015) A new clade of African body and head lice infected by Bartonella quintana and Yersinia pestis—Democratic Republic of the Congo. AmJTrop Med Hyg 93(5):990–993

  25. Drancourt M, Houhamdi L, Raoult D (2006) Yersinia pestis as a telluric, human ectoparasite-borne organism. Lancet Infect Dis 6(4):234–241

  26. Ferris GF (1951) The sucking lice. Memoirs of the Pacific Coast Enotomological Society, v. 1, San Francisco

  27. Fornaciari G, Marinozzi S, Gazzaniga V, Giuffra V, Picchi MS, Giusiani M, Masetti M (2011) The use of mercury against pediculosis in the renaissance: the case of Ferdinand II of Aragon, King of Naples, 1467–96. Medical History (55):109–115

  28. Houhamdi L, Raoult D (2006) Experimentally infected human body lice (Pediculus humanus humanus) as vectors of Rickettsia rickettsii and Rickettsia conorii in a rabbit model. AmJTrop Med Hyg 74(4):521–525

  29. Houhamdi L, Raoult D (2008) Different genes govern Yersinia pestis pathogenicity in Caenorhabditis elegans and human lice. Microb Pathog 44(5):435–437

  30. Kim JH, Min JS, Kang JS, Kwon DH, Yoon KS, Strycharz J, Koh YH, Pittendrigh BR, Clark JM, Lee SH (2011) Comparison of the humoral and cellular immune responses between body and head lice following bacterial challenge. Insect Biochem Mol Biol 41(5):332–339

  31. King PJ, Stager LE (2001) Life in biblical Israel, 1. edn. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Library of ancient Israel

  32. Kittler R, Kayser M, Stoneking M (2003) Molecular evolution of Pediculus humanus and the origin of clothing. Curr Biol 13(16):1414–1417

  33. La Scola B, Raoult D (2004) Acinetobacter baumannii in human body louse. Emerg Infect Dis 10(9):1671–1673

  34. Manchanda V, Sanchaita S, Singh N (2010) Multidrug resistant Acinetobacter. J Glob Infect Dis 2(3):291–304

  35. Maunder JW (1983) The appreciation of lice. Proceding of the royal institution of Great Britain 1983(55):1–31

  36. Mitiku K, Mengistu G (2002) Relapsing fever in Gondar, Ethiopia. East Afr Med J 79(2):85–87

  37. Nicolle C (1910) Investigations on typhus fever. J Hyg 10(01):135–136

  38. Nuttall GHF (1919) The biology of Pediculus humanus: supplementary notes. University Press, Cambridge

  39. Ogg B, Cochran S (2004) Head lice management. Educational Resource Guide, University of Nebraska 18

  40. Peleg AY, Seifert H, Paterson DL (2008) Acinetobacter baumannii: emergence of a successful pathogen. Clin Microbiol Rev 21(3):538–582

  41. Piarroux R, Abedi AA, Shako J-C, Kebela B, Karhemere S, Diatta G, Davoust B, Raoult D, Drancourt M (2013) Plague epidemics and lice, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Emerg Infect Dis 19(3):505–506

  42. Raoult D, Reed DL, Dittmar K, Kirchman JJ, Rolain J-M, Guillen S, Light JE (2008) Molecular identification of lice from pre-Columbian mummies. J Infect Dis 197(4):535–543

  43. Raoult D, Roux V (1999) The body louse as a vector of reemerging human diseases. Clin Infect Dis 29(4):888–911

  44. Reed DL, Smith VS, Hammond SL, Rogers AR, Clayton DH (2004) Genetic analysis of lice supports direct contact between modern and archaic humans. PLoS Biol 2(11):e340

  45. Sasaki T, Poudel SKS, Isawa H, Hayashi T, Seki N, Tomita T, Sawabe K, Kobayashi M (2006) First molecular evidence of Bartonella quintana in Pediculus humanus capitis (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae), collected from Nepalese children. J Med Entomol 43(1):110–112

  46. Smith R (1977) Peasant farming in Muscovy. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge

  47. Veracx A, Raoult D (2012) Biology and genetics of human head and body lice. Trends Parasitol 28(12):563–571

  48. Veracx A, Rivet R, McCoy KD, Brouqui P, Raoult D (2012) Evidence that head and body lice on homeless persons have the same genotype. PLoS One 7(9):e45903

  49. Weiss RA (2009) Apes, lice and prehistory. J Biol 8(2):20

  50. Wilting KR, Stienstra Y, Sinha B, Braks M, Cornish D, Grundmann H (2015) Louse-borne relapsing fever (Borrelia recurrentis) in asylum seekers from Eritrea, the Netherlands, July 2015. Euro Surveill 20(30)

  51. Zias J, Mumcuoglu KY (1991) Pre-pottery Neolithic B head lice from Nahal Hemar Cave. Atiqot (20):167–168

  52. Zinsser H (2008) Rats, lice, and history. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Dorian D. Dörge.

Additional information

A correction to this article is available online at

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dörge, D.D., Kuhn, T. & Klimpel, S. Flammability testing of 22 conventional European pediculicides. Parasitol Res 116, 1189–1196 (2017).

Download citation


  • Head lice treatment
  • Pediculus humanus capitis
  • Dimethicones
  • Anti-louse products