Dating apps are thought to add up to the soaring numbers of sexually transmitted infections. An Australian scientist believes that a staggering 1 to 2 percent of the population is infested with pubic lice. Statistically speaking, this means that in Tinder alone, about 750,000 users may be hoarding this commonly-ignored sexually transmitted disease.

Pubic lice, Phthirus pubis, or "crabs", were dubbed as one of the most contagious sexually transmitted infections but are rarely mentioned in research studies nowadays. This is maybe because of lesser health risks associated with it. They are, however, one of the oldest parasites infesting humans as they are thought to be present for about 10,000 years.

What Are Pubic Lice?

Pubic lice are just 1.5 millimeters and are called "crabs" because of their appearance. They have large claws designed to cling onto pubic hair. Though they do not live longer than a month, female lice can lay about 30 eggs.

They do not jump nor fly, but they can move from one person to another via direct contact. This can be transferred during sexual intercourse.

Pubic Lice And Sexually Transmitted Infections

Pubic lice are not known to cause serious health risks. They are not linked to any disease-causing microbes.

Upon acquiring pubic lice, it can take up to several weeks before any symptoms appear. Because they mainly feed on human blood, they may cause mild skin irritation such as itchiness and red lumps around the affected area, irritation, black powder in the underwear and small spots of blood on the skin.

"However, there's evidence that pubic lice may be an indicator of other sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia," Dr. Cameron Webb said.

"This relationship has led to the proposal that these lice may be the 'canaries in the coal mine' for sexually promiscuous segments of the community and the health risks they face," he added.

How Are Pubic Lice Treated?

The good thing is pubic lice are treatable. The condition can be stemmed through the use of insecticide cream, lotion and shampoo. Some treatment options require applying the medicine on the affected area, but sometimes, it is advised to use it throughout the body. To prevent re-infestation, sexual partners should also be treated.

Photo: Ed Uthman | Flickr

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