Where do lice come from?

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where do lice came from

Lice are an embarrassment. It is not a good impression to scratch your head in front of all other people.  We all have had lice once in our lives, but the question is where do lice come from?  Our mothers have had quite a difficult time to get them out of our head. Today there are many products available that could instantly kill the head lice, but still they come out of nowhere. The lice have been studied by various scientists and biologists over the years. Although there is no 100% claim as to where they came from, all the studies conducted point towards one location.  The lice have puzzled the scientists for a very long time now. The question is what lice are and where does lice come from? The answer to this question can be found easily if you know any insect specialist. Here is a detailed answer to this question. This article gives a detailed description of the origins of lice.

If you are not fond of reading, then watch this video. In this video; Dr. Ricky Gondhia is talking everything in details about head lice.

What are lice & where do lice come from?

Besides calling these creatures the itchiness causing insects the lice are contagious, meaning they can transfer from one host to another. These are parasite insects. There are two kinds of lice, head lice, and body lice. The head lice which are commonly called lice live in the Where do lice come from infographicshuman hair and feed on blood. These are very small insects which are black colored and can be seen with a naked eye. These lice live in the hair close to the scalp. As the lice are parasites, they constantly need to feed on human blood to live. Some people may think that these head lice can fly, but they cannot. These insects do not have wings at all. The lice cannot live without a human host; they can only live for a few hours without the human host. Therefore, they get transmitted from one human to another only by close contact. Therefore, it is advised to stay away from the infected person.

Misconceptions about lice

Lice are surely an embarrassment. No one likes to scratch their head all the time. There are however a lot of misconceptions about the lice. Many people think that only the people who have the low income are poor get lice. The lice are a sign of poor hygiene. Both these are not true at all. Lice can affect any human being. Lice can affect the people of all ages and genders. It is also a misconception that many people think lice are only on the female hair. It is not true at all. Even though the lice originated from Africa as discussed below, the Africans have less lie on their heads. The reason for this is that today the Africans do not have that kind of hair as they used to have in the ancient times.

The geographical origins of lice

You might be surprised to read that the human lice are of three different categories. Yes, these lice are categorized in three different “clades”. It sure is surprising as you must never have come across lice that seem different from another. They all look same. But, the biologists and scientists have categorized them based on the genetic difference. These lice may seem alike, but are different genetically. It means that the lice from one place or area can be genetically different from the lice in another geographical location. The category Clades means that an insect shares the same ancestors but are not genetically identical. The human lice clades are A,b and C. The Lice with Clades A is different in geography and genes than the B clades lice. There is a lot of research done, as to where do lice originate from? There are many debates and scientists and biologists working on it.

Till date, it is known by the Journal of Parasitology that the lice originated from North Africa. The research claims that the lice which originated there were Clade B lice. The study conducted by the Journal of Parasitology involved different sample sizes from different geographical locations all over the world. Earlier it was thought that these Clade B lice came from North Africa or Asia, the debate went on, but the further sampling and genetic engineering results proved that the lice came from North Africa. These lice then migrated from there to the far ends of the world. Of course, they migrated via humans. The lice have a tendency not to stay on the same head, but to move if the other host is found. Lice also move from one human to another if they fall apart, or drop off the head of a human being. Lice are common today in all of the world, especially Asian countries. Although these lice originated from North Africans but still, Asian countries have a large amount of these parasites than other countries.

Two species of lice | where do lice come from?

The Lice that originated from North Africa are the Clade B lice. The live that lives on us today has two different ancestors. There are many researches done on this too.  The study conducted by PLOS Biology says that these lice that which live on us today have two ancient lineages, and those lineages are even older than the human race. These are 1.8 million years older than the humans. This is the worldwide species of lice which existed even before humans.

The studies show that this ancient lice then evolved and the live that we see today emerged from them. These species of head lice that we see today are called, Pediculus humanus. A million years ago these species originated and were a part of human head ever since. The new head lice that we modern day people have are found more in Asia and Europe rather than the place they originated from.


According to science the human head lice has emerged from the body lice. Although the concept of evolution is not thought to be proof, it is a theory. The theory of evolution about the lice according to the Max Planck Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology says that the body lice got the claws when humans started to wearing clothes. The head lice did not evolve as it stayed on the head; there was no need for evolution. The research theorizes that the body lice in order to cling on to the fibers instead of hair. This research was conducted by the German researchers. This theory proves that the head lice came from the North Africa region where people did not use to wear proper clothes a million years ago. This theory also supports the fact that the head lice originated from the same time when humans started wearing clothes.  Actually this theory supports the question “where do lice come from” a bit, but not up to the high mark.

The studies conducted by the German scientist involved molecular clock analysis, according to that the lice originated some 72 thousand years ago. The scientists also p
erform the mtDNA sequences which also proved the African origin of the lice. There are many other studies also conducted which all prove that the lice originated from Africa.

The transmission of the head lice

The head lice transmitted from one continent to another when humans started trading. The trade made the people to travel across continents. This is when the lice got transmitted from once place to another. The transmission of the head lice is same as always. They jump from one head to another through close contact only. As the lice do not have any wings they cannot fly, this is the reason they get only transferred from one place to an
other or one host to another if they have a close contact. There are many other ways in which the lice get transferred, such as using the comb that the infected person used, using the brush that the infected person used, using the towel that the infected person used etc.  The lice crawl, so it is not easy for the lice to crawl form one host to another.

Protect your head from lice

It is now important that you protect your head from lice. The lice bites will not give you malaria like mosquito bites but surely it is embarrassing to have them on the head. It is necessary to take precautions to get rid of the lice. Try not to use the combs of the people who have lice, do not use their brushes etc. if you need to use, make sure that there are no lice lying around and clinging on the towels. If you do not follow the precautions you will certainly get lice. One of the easy solutions to lice is to get bald.  Even though it is not the best idea, but it will get rid of the lice once and for all. Make sure that if you are infected with lice, you take proper care of yourself and do not get in touch with other people. This way you will be safe yourself and also help others not get the crazy insect bites. Stay safe and keep others safe.

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