| Home | E-Submission | Sitemap | Contact us |  
top_img
Korean J Parasitol > Volume 56(5):2018 > Article
Veraldi, Pontini, and Nazzaro: Phthirus pubis Infestation of the Scalp: A Case Report and Review of The Literature

Abstract

Phthirus pubis usually infests the pubis, groin, buttocks and perianal region. It can sometimes infest the thighs, abdomen, chest, axillae and beard. Eyelashes and eyebrows may be involved in children. The involvement of the scalp is very rare. We describe a case of P. pubis infestation located exclusively on the scalp in an adult woman. Neither lice/nits nor skin lesions were observed elsewhere, including eyebrows, eyelashes, axillae, pubis, buttocks and perianal region (the patient was hairless in the axillae and pubis). A review of the literature is enclosed.

INTRODUCTION

Phthirus pubis Linnaeus, 1758 (Diptera: Anoplura), popularly known as crab louse, usually infests the pubis, groin, buttocks and perianal region. However, it can also infest, in particular in hairy males, the thighs, abdomen, chest, axillae and beard. Eyelashes and eyebrows are sometimes involved in children. The involvement of the scalp is very rare. We describe a case of P. pubis infestation located exclusively on the scalp in an adult woman.

CASE RECORD

A 37-year-old Italian woman was admitted because of a rash on the nape, shoulders and upper portion of the back. The patient stated she was in good general health and that she was not in therapy with systemic drugs. She also declared that the rash had appeared approximately 2 months before, a few days after her return from a trip to Vietnam and China. The rash was diagnosed at other centers as allergic contact dermatitis and unsuccessfully treated with topical corticosteroids and oral antihistamines. The patient complained of severe itching on the scalp, neck, shoulders and upper portion of the back.
Dermatological examination revealed several isolated or confluent, roundish, erythematous papules, covered by scales, on the nape, shoulders and upper portion of the back (Fig. 1). Furthermore, numerous nits and adults of P. pubis were observed on the scalp (Fig. 2). Microscopical examinations confirmed that the lice were P. pubis. Neither lice/nits nor skin lesions were observed elsewhere, including eyebrows, eyelashes, axillae, pubis, buttocks and perianal region (the patient was hairless in the axillae and pubis). Dermatological examination of the patient’s husband and children (a 17-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy) was negative. According to the patient’s history, both children were never affected by scalp pediculosis. It was therefore impossible to trace the source of the infestation. Bacteriological and mycological examinations were negative.
The patient was successfully treated with a foam containing 0.165% pyrethrins and 1.65% piperonylbutoxide (1 application/day for 2 days; the treatment was repeated 10 days later). Follow up (10 months) was negative.

DISCUSSION

The first case of scalp involvement by P. pubis was published in 1892 [1]. Since then, approximately 20 cases have been published [114]. The involvement of the scalp by this louse is therefore considered as very rare, although it is likely underestimated. However, this is the first case of scalp involvement by P. pubis we have observed in the last 35 years at our Dermatology Unit. The reason of the rarity of P. pubis infestation on the scalp is unknown. The hypothesis according to which this louse grows only in areas rich in apocrine glands is not convincing, because these glands are very rare on the scalp [1]. All cases reported so far have been Caucasians or Asians. According to the photographs reported in the articles, all patients had straight hair [2,4,9,12,13]. Cases have been observed in France [12], Turkey [14], Israel [7], India [1], China [11], Taiwan [9], Japan [8,13], Malaysia [10], Canada [6] and United States [25]. The infestation was diagnosed in children [1,3,68,10, 11,14] as well as in adults [25,9,10,12,13]. Several authors observed on the scalp, in addition to nits, more or less numerous adults of P. pubis [25,11]: this is in contrast to infestations caused by Pediculus humanus capitis De Geer, 1767, where the lice are often difficult to observe [2]. As previously mentioned, we found on the scalp of our patient several adults of P. pubis. A co-infestation on the scalp by both P. humanus capitis and P. pubis was diagnosed in 2 siblings [1]. An additional important difference between the 2 infestations is pruritus: the latter is very common and severe in P. pubis infestation on the scalp [2,4,5,9,11]. This explains the frequent observation of excoriations due to scratching [2,5]. The occipital region, nape and upper portion of the back, as in our patient, are most involved [15]. It is interesting to observe that in some patients the infestation occurred only on the scalp: no involvement of other skin regions, such as the pubis, were observed [1,4,5]. Also, in our patient the infestation involved only the scalp.
Although a very small number of patients with P. pubis infestation on the scalp has been reported in the literature, it is possible that it is misdiagnosed as pediculosis caused by P. humanus capitis. As suggested by some authors [5], microscopical examination of the lice observed on the scalp is helpful for a correct etiological diagnosis.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
We have no conflict of interest.

REFERENCES

1. Singh S, Singh N, Ray JC, Roy S, Garg SP. Phthirus pubis infestation of the scalp: report of three cases. Rev Infect Dis 1990;12: 560.
crossref pmid pdf
2. Elgart ML, Higdon RS. Pediculosis pubis of the scalp. Arch Dermatol 1973;107: 916-917.
crossref
3. Mueller JF. Pubic lice from the scalp hair; a report of two cases. J Parasitol 1973;59: 943-944.
crossref pmid
4. Witkowski JA, Parish LC. Pthiriasis capitis. Int J Dermatol 1979;18: 559-560.
crossref pmid
5. Signore RJ, Love J, Boucree MC. Scalp infestation with Phthirus pubis . Arch Dermatol 1989;125: 133.
crossref
6. Silburt BS, Parsons WL. Scalp infestation by Phthirus pubis in a 6-week-old infant. Pediatr Dermatol 1990;7: 205-207.
crossref pmid
7. Klaus S, Shvil Y, Mumcuoglu KY. Generalized infestation of a 3 1/2-year-old girl with the pubic louse. Pediatr Dermatol 1994;11: 26-28.
crossref pmid
8. Ikeda N, Nomoto H, Hayasaka S, Nagaki Y. Phthirus pubis infestation of the eyelashes and scalp hairs in a girl. Pediatr Dermatol 2003;20: 356-357.
crossref pmid
9. Lai HH, Chuang SD, Hu CH, Lee WR. Pthiriasis capitis. Int J Dermatol 2005;44: 771-773.
crossref pmid
10. Pakeer O, Jeffery J, Abdullah AM, Ahmad F, Baharudin O. Four cases of pediculosis caused by Pthirus pubis Linnaeus 1758 (Diptera: Anoplura) from peninsular Malaysia. Trop Biomed 2007;24: 101-103.
pmid
11. Zhang RZ, Zhu WY. Familian phthiriasis infesting the eyelashes, scalp hair and pubic hair. Eur J Pediatr Dermatol 2012;22: 245-248.

12. Akhoundi M, Cannet A, Arab MK, Marty P, Delaunay P. An old lady with Pediculosis pubis on the head hair. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2016;30: 885-887.
crossref pmid
13. Eto A, Nakamura M, Ito S, Tanaka M, Furue M. An outbreak of pubic louse infestation on the scalp hair of elderly women. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2017;31: 79-80.
crossref
14. Senturk N. Phthirus pubis infestation of the eyelashes and scalp in a five year old girl. Pediatr Dermatol 2017;34(suppl):155-156.

Fig. 1
Several isolated or confluent, roundish, erythematous papules, covered by scales, located on the nape, shoulders and upper portion of the back.
kjp-56-5-487f1.gif
Fig. 2
Adult of Phthirus pubis.
kjp-56-5-487f2.gif
Editorial Office
c/o Department of Medical Environmental Biology
Chung-AngUniversity College of Medicine, Dongjak-gu, Seoul 06974, Korea
Tel: +82-2-820-5683   Fax: +82-2-826-1123   E-mail: kjp.editor@gmail.com
About |  Browse Articles |  Current Issue |  For Authors and Reviewers
Copyright © 2018 by The Korean Society for Parasitology and Tropical Medicine. All rights reserved.     powerd by m2community