The head and body lice of humans are genetically distinct (Insecta: Phthiraptera, Pediculidae): evidence from double infestations
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Little is known about the population genetics of the louse infestations of humans. We used microsatellite DNA to study 11 double infestations, that is, hosts infested with head lice and body lice simultaneously. We tested for population structure on a host, and for population structure among seven hosts that shared sleeping quarters. We also sought evidence of migration among louse populations. Our results showed that: (i) the head and body lice on these individual hosts were two genetically distinct populations; (ii) each host had their own populations of head and body lice that were genetically distinct to those on other hosts; and (iii) lice had migrated from head to head, and from body to body, but not between heads and bodies. Our results indicate that head and body lice are separate species.