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Date:3/10/2010

Ivermectin may offer alternative for hard-to-treat infestations, study shows,,,,,,

WEDNESDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News)-- In children with hard-to-treat head lice, the oral medication ivermectin is more effective than the standard treatment, the topical cream malathion, new research finds.

The study, published in the March 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 95 percent of those treated with ivermectin were lice-free after two weeks compared to 85 percent of those using malathion.

"Ivermectin may be a good alternative to malathion when topical insecticide resistance is suspected," the study authors wrote.

The researchers caution that ivermectin generally shouldn't be used as a first-line treatment, but instead suggest that it be reserved for treatment-resistant lice. Overuse of ivermectin might lead to lice developing resistance to this medication as well.

Between 6 million and 12 million American schoolchildren are infested with head lice each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Worldwide, as many as 100 million people contract head lice annually, according to background information in the study.

Although most lice infestations respond well to over-the-counter remedies, some lice have become resistant to these medications. In some cases, lice have also developed a resistance to the topical prescription medication malathion.

Ivermectin, an oral anti-parasitic drug, has been used to treat other parasitic infections, such as scabies. A previous trial on ivermectin found that a dose of 200 micrograms per kilogram of body weight was only effective in killing lice in about one out of four people, according to the study.

The current study was designed to assess the efficacy of ivermectin at twice that dose -- 400 micrograms per kilogram of body weight -- and to compare it to the standard treatment for difficult-to-treat
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