A multicentre, randomised, assessor-blind, parallel-group trial (Trial 1) was conducted to compare the safety and efficacy of a head lice treatment containing Australian eucalyptus oil and Leptospermum petersonii (EO/LP solution; applied thrice with 7-day intervals between applications) with a neurotoxic treatment containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (P/PB mousse; applied twice with a 7-day interval) in children. A single-blind, open trial (Trial 2) was conducted to assess the efficacy of EO/LP solution following a single application. In addition, skin irritancy and sensitisation tests using EO/LP solution were performed in adults and children. In vitro tests were performed to further assess the ovicidal and pediculicidal efficacy of EO/LP solution.
EO/LP solution was found to be more than twice as effective in curing head lice infestation as P/PB mousse in per-protocol participants (Trial 1; 83% vs 36%, P < 0.0001), and was also found to be 100% pediculicidal following a single application (Trial 2). Adverse events were limited to transient itching, burning or stinging. Further skin testing with the EO/LP solution reported no irritation or sensitisation in adults, or irritation in children. In vitro exposure of lice and eggs to the EO/LP solution resulted in 100% mortality.
The efficacy, safety and relative ease of use of the EO/LP solution make it a viable alternative in treating head lice.
Reference: Greive, K. A. and Barnes, T. M. (2017), The efficacy of Australian essential oils for the treatment of head lice infestation in children: A randomised controlled trial. Australas J Dermatol. doi:10.1111/ajd.12626