There are few, if any, species of organisms whose extinction we could all agree would be beneficial, however in the case of the pubic louse, we may have found an exception. Commonly known as “crabs,” the notorious pubic louse is disappearing.
Australia’s sexual health clinic in Sydney has not reported a woman with pubic lice since 2008 and male cases are down 80%, from roughly 100 incidences ten years ago.
‘It used to be extremely common; its now rarely seen,’ says Basil Donovan, head of sexual health at the University of New South Wale’s Kirby Institute. ‘Without doubt, it’s better grooming,’ reports Donovan, who also works as a physician at the Sydney Sexual Health Centre.
Topical insecticides, developed during World War II have been used to treat a case of the crabs, seen at left, and although they do not spread disease, pubic lice cause itchy skin and infections.
The trimming, waxing, and shaving associated with pubic grooming is becoming worldwide, and unisexual. A majority of college-aged men and women in the US and Australia reported removing all or part of their pubic hair, according to a 2011 paper.
Public lice are known scientifically as Phthirus publis, and are known to infest two to ten percent of people. They are closely related to a louse known to infect gorillas, called Phthirus gorillae, and likely branched off more than 3 million years ago.
Source: Smolak L & Murnen S (2011) ‘Gender, Self-Objectification and Pubic Hair Removal’ Sex Roles, 65 (7-8), 506-517 DOI: 10.1007/s11199-010-9922-z