Body lice, which often lead to dangerous epidemics, originate from head lice, a new research has found.
The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) released a statement confirming the finding.
It stated: "This has recently been shown by a team from the Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases Research Unit (CNRS/IRD/Universiti de la Miditerranie), in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Florida and Illinois" in the U.S.
CNRS added: "Until now, head lice, which feed on the scalp and lay their eggs on hair, and body lice, which feed on the rest of the body and live in the creases of dirty clothes, were thought to be different species. However, researchers from the Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases Research Unit (CNRS/IRD/Universiti de la Miditerranie) and two U.S. teams have shown that these lice have the same origin."
After a genetic analysis of the louse genome, the researchers learned that "it was impossible to distinguish the head louse from the body louse at the genetic level," National Geographic Society reported.
CNRS further said: "In addition, fieldwork has shown that, in populations living in extreme poverty, the proliferation of head lice led to the emergence of lice able to adapt to clothes and turn into body lice. These body lice were then able to cause epidemics of body lice and bacterial epidemics.
"This discovery shows that it is not possible to eradicate body lice without first eradicating head lice, which until now has proved impossible. In addition, this explains the regular appearance of body lice in areas where they were previously unknown, when sanitary conditions rapidly deteriorate.
It concluded: "Head lice are therefore permanently in an endemic state. In highly unfavorable sanitary conditions, head lice proliferate, and some of them migrate into clothes, triggering a new epidemic of body lice."