Equine pediculosis is a significant health and welfare issue, particularly in elderly and
chronically debilitated animals. Currently infestation is controlled predominantly using
topically applied pyrethroid insecticides, allowing limited scope for the rotation of drugs and increasing the risk of selection for resistance. Here the insecticidal efficacies of two pyrethroid-based products against the louse Bovicola (Werneckiella) ocellatus collected from donkeys were examined in vitro. The products were cypermethrin (DeosectTM, Pfizer Ltd., 5% (w/v) cypermethrin, cutaneous spray) and permethrin (SwitchTM, VetPlus Ltd., 4% (w/v) permethrin, pour-on). The pyrethroid efficacy was contrasted with that of the organophosphate diazinon, since the louse populations examined were unlikely to have had prior exposure to this compound. The efficacy of diluted pure permethrin, the excipient, butyl dioxitol and the synergist piperonyl butoxide in the presence of the pyrethroids, were also considered. At the concentrations recommended for animal application, neither 4% (w/v) permethrin, nor 0.1% (w/v) cypermethrin had any significant effect on the mortality of B. ocellatus and neither induced significantly more mortality than an acetone-only control. In contrast, 0.04% diazinon caused 70% mortality within 4 h and 100% mortality after 24 h
exposure. The addition of a potential pyrethroid synergist, piperonyl butoxide, in combinationwith cypermethrin and permethrin, resulted in no significant increase in mortality.
It is concluded that the population of lice tested display a high level of pyrethroid tolerance which is likely to reflect the development of resistance. Twenty-four hours after routine treatment of 10 donkeys with a pour-on permethrin product (SwitchTM, VetPlus Ltd., 4% (w/v) permethrin, pour-on) hair tufts taken from their flanks were not significantly insecticidal compared with hair from the midline application site, implying a low level of insecticide distribution. Such a distribution pattern is likely to create an insecticide concentration gradient over the body and further facilitate selection for resistance.