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Pediculosis corporis

Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Beth G Goldstein, MD
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Ted Rosen, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Pediculosis corporis, pediculosis pubis, and pediculosis capitis are disorders caused by infestation by one of three varieties of lice that specifically infest humans (figure 1). The organisms causing pediculosis corporis (Pediculus humanus humanus, also known as Pediculosis humanus corporis) and pediculosis capitis (Pediculus humanus capitis) are closely related variants of the same species. While pediculosis capitis is typically restricted to the scalp, patients with pediculosis corporis present with widespread symptoms, frequently involving the truncal areas.

The clinical findings, diagnosis, and treatment of pediculosis corporis will be discussed here. Pediculosis capitis and pediculosis pubis are reviewed separately. (See "Pediculosis capitis" and "Pediculosis pubis and pediculosis ciliaris".)


Pediculosis corporis is a significant problem in countries where poverty, crowding, and a low level of personal hygiene favor spread and multiplication of the parasite. The communal bed is a major factor in the perpetuation of infestation. In Europe and North America, pediculosis corporis is largely a problem of the homeless (particularly homeless individuals not residing in shelters and without access to bathing facilities) [1].    


The body louse (2 to 4 mm in length) is a little larger, but similar in morphology, to the head louse (figure 1 and picture 1A-B). It lives in clothing and lays eggs along the seams. The louse visits the host's skin to feed, and can survive for up to three days without a blood meal [2].


Pediculus humanus humanus serves as a vector for diseases such as epidemic typhus, trench fever, and relapsing fever [3-5]. Bartonella quintana transmission via louse infestation has also been linked to endocarditis [2]. (See "Endocarditis caused by Bartonella".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 19, 2016.
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