Since 2007, Norwegian scientists have been studying an unusual case of pathological hair loss, the cause of which has only recently been announced. However the receding hairlines in question did not belong to Norwegian men, but another local resident – the Eurasian elk.
In the Summer of 2007, hunters and local residents began to report seeing balding elks, leading to an investigation by local scientists. Soon the elks in question were found to be host to a rather nasty parasite known as the “deer ked”, a bloodsucking creature that feeds off other animals. Deer keds are not uncommon in deer and elks across Europe, but normally a host carries an average of 3500 keds. The Norwegian elks were found carrying up to 16,500 keds.
Scientists are unable to explain exactly why keds are causing elk to lose their hair, but the worst affected animals are also those carrying the most parasites. One theory is that 16,500 bugs drinking 15 to 20 times a day causes an inflammatory reaction of the elk’s skin, shedding hair in the process. There is also a suggestion that ked bites may be altering blood flow so that nutrients for healthy hair growth are not being delivered to follicles.
Despite knowing the cause of the problem, scientists have yet to develop an effective treatment for affected elk.
Parasites that cause human hair loss
Although humans can experience hair loss as a result of skin inflammation or blood flow problems, the good news is that deer keds are not believed to exist in people. But there are a number of parasites which do attack the human body and can cause hair loss:
Scabies are microscopic mites which tunnel into the skin and lay eggs. Immature scabies larvae particularly favour hair follicles to feed on, sometime blocking the delivery of nutrients essential to healthy hair growth. Where the mite attacks the scalp, people may experience severe discomfort. In scratching the affected areas, hair can be broken and fall out. Scabies infestations can spread rapidly, leading to large patches of affected scalp.
- Hair lice
Probably the most common of all parasitic infections, hair lice rapidly spread throughout their human host’s hair. Lice also feed on blood from the scalp, occasionally causing dermatitis and associated hair loss. Lice may cause additional hair loss during brushing or combing as their eggs “stick” in the teeth of the brush, often resulting in healthy hair being pulled out and potentially damaging hair follicles.
Good news for humans
The good news is that unlike the Norwegian elk, there exist a number of very effective treatments for killing off parasite infections and treating the hair loss they cause. A holistic hair loss treatment plan combined overseen by a hair loss expert is the recommended course of action for anyone experiencing hair loss as a result of any kind of infection.