Pediculosis corporis

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Pediculosis corporis
Other names: Pediculosis vestimenti, Vagabond's disease
Pediculosis corporis is caused by the body louse, Pediculus humanus humanus (syn. Pediculus corporis[citation needed]). The dark mass depicted inside the abdomen is a previously ingested blood meal.
Complicationsepidemic typhus, relapsing fever, trench fever, Vagabond's leukomelanoderma
CausesBody louse
Risk factorsNearby people with body lice, poor hygiene[1]
PreventionRegular cleaning of bedding and clothing, personal hygiene
TreatmentWashing contaminated bedding and clothing in hot or boiling water, personal hygiene, pediculicide

Pediculosis corporis or Vagabond's disease is a cutaneous condition caused by body lice (Pediculus humanus humanus) that lay their eggs in the seams of clothing.[2]: 447  It is typically associated with overcrowding, poor hygiene, and natural disasters.[1]

Signs and symptoms

Hyperchromic lesions on lower limbs[3]

Body lice can cause intense itching.[citation needed]

Risk factors

Body lice are spread through prolonged direct physical contact with a person who has them or with that person's clothing, bed linens or towels. In the United States, body lice infestations are rare, typically found mainly in homeless people who do not have access to bathing and regular changes of clean clothes. Infestation is unlikely to persist on anyone who bathes regularly and who has at least weekly access to freshly laundered clothing and bedding.[4]

Although louse-borne typhus is no longer widespread, outbreaks of this disease still occur in conditions where people live together in unsanitary conditions, such as prisons, blockades, disasters, civil unrest and war. This applies to all places where climate, poverty or war prevent regular changes and laundering of clothing.[5]


Body lice frequently lay their eggs on or near the seams of clothing. They must feed on blood and usually only move to the skin to feed. They exist worldwide and infest people of all races. They can spread rapidly under crowded living conditions where hygiene is poor (homeless, refugees, victims of war or natural disasters).[5]

Body lice can also transmit other pathogens, especially those causing epidemic typhus, trench and relapsing fevers.[6]


The evaluation is done via detection of eggs and lice on clothing, additionally PCR assay exists to differentiate between head and body lice [3]


A body lice infestation is treated by improving the personal hygiene of the infested person, including assuring a regular (at least weekly) change of clean clothes. Clothing, bedding, and towels used by the infested person should be laundered using hot water (at least 130 °F or 54 °C) and machine dried using the hot cycle.[citation needed]

Delousing can also be practically achieved by boiling all clothes and bedding, or washing them at a high temperature.[7] A temperature of 130 °F (54 °C) for 5 minutes will kill most of the adults and prevent eggs from hatching.[8] Leaving the clothes unwashed, but unworn for a full week, also results in the death of lice and eggs.[6]

Where this is not practical or possible, powder dusting with 10% DDT, 1% malathion or 1% permethrin is also effective.[6] Oral ivermectin at a dose of 12 mg on days 0, 7 and 14 has been used in a small trial of 33 people in Marseilles, but did not result in complete eradication, although there was a significant fall in the number of parasites and proportion of people infected.[9]

Sometimes the infested person also is treated with a pediculicide (a medicine that can kill lice). However, a pediculicide generally is not necessary if hygiene is maintained and items are laundered appropriately at least once a week. A pediculicide should be applied exactly as directed on the bottle or by a physician.[citation needed]

Medication, insecticide or burning of clothing and bedding is usually[clarification needed] not necessary, as the problem normally[clarification needed] goes away with daily bathing, and at least weekly hot laundering or drying of clothing, bedding and towels.[8]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bolognia, Jean L.; Schaffer, Julie V.; Duncan, Karynne O.; Ko, Christine (2022). "71. Infestations: body lice". Dermatology Essentials (2nd ed.). Elsevier. pp. 738–739. ISBN 978-0-323-70971-2. Archived from the original on 2024-02-12. Retrieved 2024-02-12.
  2. James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7216-2921-6.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Powers, Jim; Badri, Talel (2023). "Pediculosis Corporis". StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. Archived from the original on 2023-04-03. Retrieved 2023-10-05.
  4. "CDC - Lice - Body Lice - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)". Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 24 September 2013. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gratz, N. (1998), Human lice, their prevalence and resistance to insecticides (PDF), Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO), archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-24, retrieved 2023-08-13
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Raoult, Didier; Roux, Veronique (October 1999). "The Body Louse as a Vector of Reemerging Human Diseases". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 29 (4): 888–911. doi:10.1086/520454. ISSN 1058-4838. PMID 10589908. Archived from the original on 2023-10-20. Retrieved 2023-08-13.
  7. Raoult D, Roux V (1999). "The body louse as a vector of reemerging human diseases". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 29 (4): 888–911. doi:10.1086/520454. PMID 10589908.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Knowledge Center". CIGNA Corp. Bloomfield, Connecticut. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2023-08-13.
  9. Foucault C, Ranque S, Badiaga S (2006). "Oral ivermectin in the treatment of body lice". Journal of Infectious Diseases. 193 (3): 474–476. doi:10.1086/499279. PMID 16388498.
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