You might not have known
this but ancient Egypt was an itchy place to live. Lice were rampant. Cleopatra for example was buried
with solid gold lice combs, while other Egyptians would
shave their entire bodies to try and get rid of the parasites. It’s a problem we’ve had for a while, and we probably won’t be
solving it anytime soon. Humans and lice have been living together for about seven million years, when our ancestors
first split from chimps, and we’ve been itching to
get rid of them ever since. There are 532 species of lice out there, but let’s take a look at the most common type
that plagues humans: head lice. For starters, they have six legs, and each one has a tiny hook
at the end that helps them climb from one head to the
other, latch onto your hair, and quickly crawl down to your scalp where they’ll feast on your
blood several times a day. And once they’ve made
themselves comfortable, lice are tricky to spot. Adult lice, for example, are about as large as a sesame seed. While baby lice or nymphs
are a fraction of that size. Lice are well camouflaged, too, matching the color of
the hair around them. Not to mention your scalp is
the perfect breeding ground. In one day, a female louse
can lay up to eight eggs. Those eggs only take
about a week to hatch. Once they’re 10 days old, they’ll start laying eggs of their own. While it’s rare to find more
than 20 live lice on any head, there could be dozens or
even hundreds of dead bodies lingering on your scalp. Are you feeling itchy yet? Perhaps even worse is that
they’re a pain to get rid of. Lice can hold their
breath for eight hours. So they’ll be fine when
you go take a shower or go for a swim. They’re also notorious for developing resistance to insecticides. During World War II for example,
militaries dusted millions of Europeans with DDT to
control lice-borne typhus. And thanks to our overuse of it, lice grew resistance to the poison. Even today, we’re still seeing
the repercussions from it. Many over-the-counter shampoos
and lotions use similar killing mechanisms to DDT, which in some places has
made it easier for lice to grow resistant to
these treatments as well. But scientists are striking back. In the last decade,
experts have developed new weapons of attack for when initial over-the-counter treatments don’t work- like ivermectin lotion, which
paralyzes lice by disrupting their nervous systems. And of course, shaving your
head like the Egyptians is a cheap and surefire bet. But let’s face it, most of us probably
can’t pull off that look.