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Open Access Research article

A randomised, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children - melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a "suffocation" product

Stephen C Barker1* and Phillip M Altman2

Author Affiliations

1 Parasitology Section, School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences, and UniQuest Pty. Ltd., University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, 4072 Australia

2 Altman Biomedical Consulting Pty. Ltd., 20 Folly Point, Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia

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BMC Dermatology 2010, 10:6  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-10-6

Published: 20 August 2010

Abstract

Background

There are many different types of pediculicides available OTC in Australia. In this study we compare the efficacy and safety of three topical pediculicides: a pediculicide containing melaleuca oil (tea tree oil) and lavender oil (TTO/LO); a head lice "suffocation" product; and a product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (P/PB).

Method

This study was a randomised, assessor-blind, comparative, parallel study of 123 subjects with live head lice. The head lice products were applied according to the manufacturer's instructions (the TTO/LO product and the "suffocation" product were applied three times at weekly intervals according to manufacturers instructions (on Day 0, Day 7 and Day 14) and the P/PB product was applied twice according to manufacturers instructions (on Day 0 and Day 7)). The presence or absence of live lice one day following the last treatment was determined.

Results

The percentage of subjects who were louse-free one day after the last treatment with the product containing tea tree oil and lavender oil (41/42; 97.6%) and the head lice "suffocation" product (40/41, 97.6%) was significantly higher compared to the percentage of subjects who were louse-free one day after the last treatment with the product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (10/40, 25.0%; adj. p < 0.0001).

Conclusion

The high efficacy of the TTO/LO product and the head lice "suffocation" product offers an alternative to the pyrethrins-based product.

Trial Registration

The study was entered into the Australian/New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry, ACTRN12610000179033.