Which species of lice cause pediculosis and pthiriasis (lice infestation)?

Updated: Aug 16, 2019
  • Author: Lyn C C Guenther, MD, FRCPC, FAAD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

Different species of lice prefer to feed on certain locations on the body of the host. Louse species include Pediculus capitis (head lice), Pediculus corporis (body lice), and Pthirus pubis (pubic lice, sometimes called “crabs”).

See the louse images below.

The head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis, has an The head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis, has an elongated body and narrow anterior mouthparts. Body lice look similar but lay their eggs (nits) on clothing fibers instead of hair fibers.
The pubic louse, Pthirus pubis, is identified by i The pubic louse, Pthirus pubis, is identified by its wide crablike body.

See When Bugs Feast: What's Causing that Itch?, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify various skin reactions, recognize potential comorbidities, and select treatment options.


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