A simplified protocol for in vitro rearing of human body lice

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A simplified protocol for in vitro rearing of human body lice

  • Pietri, Jose E.
  • Ray, Ritesh
Published Article
EDP Sciences
Publication Date
Feb 10, 2020
DOI: 10.1051/parasite/2020007
EDP Sciences
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Human body lice (Pediculus humanus) are neglected ectoparasites and pathogen vectors. Difficulties in raising and maintaining colonies of body lice in a laboratory setting remain a barrier to fundamental studies of physiology and vector-pathogen interactions in these insects. Several in vivo and in vitro rearing systems have been previously described and used by multiple research groups. However, these methods suffer from drawbacks that still complicate the rearing of body lice relative to many other commonly studied hematophagous insects. Here, a simplified protocol for raising and maintaining body lice in vitro using the commercially available Hemotek apparatus is described. This protocol draws from published methods for rearing body lice as well as other hematophagous insect species to further reduce labor, time, costs, and regulatory requirements typically associated with keeping human body lice in the laboratory. Using this protocol, the insects consistently fed on commercially available rabbit blood with little mortality, reached adulthood at a high rate, and produced a significant number of viable eggs, resulting in a 4.8-fold increase in population over a period of 40 days. The data suggest that the process described here can propagate modest populations for ongoing laboratory experiments and is a useful alternative to existing methods. The use and further optimization of in vitro rearing systems may facilitate dynamic studies of body lice by a wider range of investigators, enabling new progress in combating lice infestations, and louse-borne infections.

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