Typhus, Body Lice, and DDT
(2 of 4)
by Dr. David L. Evans,
Department of Natural Sciences
Pennsylvania College of Technology
Actually, a tiny minority of
the lice had a rare characteristic that allowed them
to destroy the DDT as it entered their tiny bodies. This
characteristic could be
passed from parent to child louse through the genetic
material in their eggs and
sperm. The reason this ability was rare is that until
DDT had been invented, it
was an absolutely useless thing to be able to do!
Naturally, when American troops
started hosing everyone down with DDT,
most lice died and typhus could not be easily spread.
Water systems were
restored and people were able to clean themselves properly
again and the few
lice that remained became even rarer. Nobody noticed
that there were really still
a few lice around.