Journal Article

The Body Louse as a Vector of Reemerging Human Diseases

Didier Raoult and Véronique Roux

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 29, issue 4, pages 888-911
Published in print August 1999 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online August 1999 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/520454
The Body Louse as a Vector of Reemerging Human Diseases

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The body louse, Pediculus humanus humanus, is a strict human parasite, living and multiplying in clothing. Louse infestation is associated with cold weather and a lack of hygiene. Three pathogenic bacteria are transmitted by the body louse. Borrelia recurrentis is a spirochete, the agent of relapsing fever, recently cultured on axenic medium. Historically, massive outbreaks have occurred in Eurasia and Africa, but currently the disease is found only in Ethiopia and neighboring countries. Bartonella quintana is now recognized as an agent of bacillary angiomatosis bacteremia, trench fever, endocarditis, and chronic lymphadenopathy among the homeless. Rickettsia prowazekii is the agent of epidemic typhus. The most recent outbreak (and the largest since World War II) was observed in Burundi. A small outbreak was also reported in Russia in 1997. Louse infestation appears to become more prevalent worldwide, associated with a decline in social and hygienic conditions provoked by civil unrest and economic instability.

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Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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