10th April 2012
A mechanical treatment for head lice is attracting interest in Australia but an expert cautions that it has limitations.
The LouseBuster, a machine approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, dries out head lice with a combination of heat and air pressure. The LouseBuster is 94.8 per cent effective in killing lice and their eggs, according to research from the University of Utah co-authored by the device’s inventor.
It works on the principle that louse eggs fail to hatch in laboratory conditions after exposure to hot air at 55 degrees, and a major selling point is that unlike insecticide-based shampoos there is no resistance problem.
The device requires an operator to provide a half-hour treatment and comb dead lice out of the hair. The treatment is currently available in NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
Natalie Kemps, a licensed operator based in Mandurah, WA, said she has been treating 4 families per week “and so far they are really happy with the results”.
However, with home visits at $70 an hour in Mandurah and clinic visits in Sydney starting at $75, lice expert Professor Stephen Barker from the University of Queensland is sceptical.
“The problem is that a family can’t just buy it – they have to make an appointment with someone who is licensed to use it, and it’s only licensed to certain operators,” he said, adding it was not 100 per cent effective.
More than 20 head lice shampoos are currently marketed in Australia.
The LouseBuster prototype was invented in 2006 by evolutionary parasitologist Dr Dale Clayton from the University of Utah and became commercially available in the United States in 2010.
Last Reviewed: 10 April 2012