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Parasit Vectors. 2018 Jun 15;11(1):348. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-2930-5.

Detection of bacterial pathogens in clade E head lice collected from Niger's refugees in Algeria.

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IRD, AP-HM, SSA, VITROME, IHU-Méditerranée Infection, Aix Marseille Univ, Marseille, France.
Laboratoire de Valorisation et Conservation des Ressources Biologiques (VALCOR), Faculté des Sciences, Université M'Hamed Bougara Boumerdes, Boumerdes, Algeria.
IRD, AP-HM, MEPHI, IHU-Méditerranée Infection, Aix-Marseille Univ, Marseille, France.
Laboratoire Biodiversité et Environnement: Interactions, Génomes, Département de Biologie, Université des Sciences et Technologies Houari Boumediene, Bab Ezzouar, Algeria.
Ecole Supérieure des Sciences de l'Aliment et des Industries Agro-Alimentaires, Algiers, Algeria.
IRD, AP-HM, MEPHI, IHU-Méditerranée Infection, Aix-Marseille Univ, Marseille, France.



Head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis, are obligate blood-sucking parasites. Phylogenetically, they occur in five divergent mitochondrial clades (A, D, B, C and E), each having a particular geographical distribution. Recent studies have revealed that head lice, as is the case of body lice, can act as a vector for louse-borne diseases. Here, we aimed to study the genetic diversity of head lice collected from Niger's refugees (migrant population) arriving in Algeria, northern Africa, and to look for louse-borne pathogens. Comparative head lice samples collected from indigenous population of schoolchildren (non-immigrant) were also analyzed to frame the study.


In this study, 37 head lice samples were collected from 31 Nigerien refugees, as well as 45 head lice from 27 schoolchildren. The collection was established in three localities of eastern Algiers, north Algeria. Quantitative real-time PCR screening of pathogens bacteria and the genetic characterisation of the head lice satut were performed. Through amplification and sequencing of the cytb gene, results showed that all head lice of Nigerien refugees 37/82 (45.12%) belonged to clade E with the presence of four new haplotypes, while, of the 45 head lice of schoolchildren, 34/82 lice (41.46%) belonged to clade A and 11/82 (13.41%) belonged to clade B. Our study is the first to report the existence of clade E haplogroup in Nigerien head lice. DNA of Coxiella burnetii was detected in 3/37 (8.10%) of the head lice collected from 3 of the 31 (9.67%) migrant population. We also revealed the presence of Acinetobacter DNA in 20/37 (54.05%) of head lice collected from 25/31 (80.64%) of the Nigerien refugees, and in 25/45 (55.55%) head lice collected from 15/27 (55.55%) schoolchildren. All positive Nigerien-head lice for Acinetobacter spp. were identified as A. baumannii, while positive schoolchildren-head lice were identified as A. johnsonii 15/25 (60%), A. variabilis 8/25 (32%) and A. baumannii 2/25 (8%).


Based on these findings from head lice collected on migrant and non-migrant population, our results show, for the first time, that head lice from Niger belong to haplogroup E, and confirm that the clade E had a west African distribution. We also detected, for the first time, the presence of C. burnetii and A. baumannii in these Nigerien head lice. Nevertheless, further studies are needed to determine whether the head lice can transmit these pathogenic bacteria from one person to another.


Acinetobacter spp.; Algeria; Coxiella burnetii; Head lice; Migrant population; Niger’s refugees; Non-migrant population; Pediculus humanus capitis; Scholchildren

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