Comparative efficacy and safety of interventions for treating head lice: A protocol for systematic review and network meta-analysis

Bill Stevenson, Wubshet Tesfaye, Julia Christenson, Cynthia Mathew, Solomon Abrha, Gregory Peterson, Indira Samarawickrema, Jackson Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Background Head lice infestation is a major public health problem around the globe. Its treatment is challenging due to product failures resulting from rapidly emerging resistance to existing treatments, incorrect treatment applications and misdiagnosis. Various head lice treatments with different mechanism of action have been developed and explored over the years, with limited report on systematic assessments of their efficacy and safety. This work aims to present a robust evidence summarising the interventions used in head lice.

Method This is a systematic review and network meta-analysis which will be reported in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses statement for network meta-analyses. Selected databases, including PubMed, Embase, MEDLINE, Web of Science, CINAHL and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials will be systematically searched for randomised controlled trials exploring head lice treatments. Searches will be limited to trials published in English from database inception till 2021. Grey literature will be identified through Open Grey, AHRQ, Grey Literature Report, Grey Matters,, WHO International Clinical Trials Registry and International Standard Randomised Controlled Trials Number registry. Additional studies will be sought from reference lists of included studies. Study screening, selection, data extraction and assessment of methodological quality will be undertaken by two independent reviewers, with disagreements resolved via a third reviewer. The primary outcome measure is the relative risk of cure at 7 and 14 days postinitial treatment. Secondary outcome measures may include adverse drug events, ovicidal activity, treatment compliance and acceptability, and reinfestation. Information from direct and indirect evidence will be used to generate the effect sizes (relative risk) to compare the efficacy and safety of individual head lice treatments against a common comparator (placebo and/or permethrin). Risk of bias assessment will be undertaken by two independent reviewers using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool and the certainty of evidence assessed using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations guideline for network meta-analysis. All quantitative analyses will be conducted using STATA V.16.

Discussion The evidence generated from this systematic review and meta-analysis is intended for use in evidence-driven treatment of head lice infestations and will be instrumental in informing health professionals, public health practitioners and policy-makers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001129
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ Paediatrics Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021


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