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Heard on All Things Considered
April 9, 2012 - ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Our next story is about lice, and one biologist's mission to rid his home of them. Our tale begins with lice doing what they were born to do - infest. Here's NPR's Steve Henn.
STEVE HENN, BYLINE: When your kids are infested with head lice, a certain amount of panic, even desperation, can spread through a house. These bugs are basically harmless, but Sheri Nacht still knows too well the knot that can form in the pit of a parent's stomach讓父母的胃都糾結了 at the sight of a louse. Sheri's a kindergarten teacher幼稚園老師 in Santa Cruz. This winter...
SHERI NACHT: I figured out that I had lice myself, which I haven't had since I was a child. It was a total nightmare噩夢.
HENN: Did you have to - you know, like, send a letter home to parents and explain that not only was someone in the class infested but in fact, it was you?
NACHT: I had the nurse come down and check my whole class. We found out that there was another little girl who had lice, so they went ahead and sent the letter. And it's just a letter saying somebody in the school has lice, and make sure to check your hair.
HENN: Even if it didn't name names, Sheri was mortified羞愧/丟臉.
NACHT: I combed用扁平梳子去梳頭(非扁平梳子要用brush這個字) and combed, and shampooed and combed for three weeks, and had a friend combing my hair every other night. And we just - it was very difficult to get rid of, and I wasn't sure that I was done with it.
HENN: Turns out, she wasn't. And even researchers who study lice for a living, Ph.D.s in entomology昆蟲學, can become helpless when faced with a live, fertile很會生的 louse loose on the scalp在頭皮上自由行動 of their child.
DALE CLAYTON: My wife and I couldn't get rid of the head lice.
HENN: Dale Clayton studies co-evolution共同進化 and parasites寄生蟲 at the University of Utah. He's been doing research on lice for decades.
CLAYTON: And here I am, supposed to be an expert on lice - and there are not many of us in the world, by the way. ..
CLAYTON: ...completely clueless完全摸不著頭緒 about how to get rid of human head lice.
HENN: When his kids were little, they - like millions of others - got it. And he spent weeks combing and picking and shampooing.
CLAYTON: Even then, it was already pretty well known that lice were evolving resistance免疫(發展出抵抗力) to many of the shampoos that are available in drugstores and grocery stores and so on.
HENN: So it became Dale Clayton's mission to build a better louse trap.
CLAYTON: The first attempt was to take pigeon lice長在鴿子身上的蝨子 - and I'm not making this up我是說真的(不是瞎編唬人的) - and put them in my hair, and then put on my mother's bonnet hair dryer美容院使用的頭罩式吹風機.
CLAYTON: ...and look to see if it had any effect on them有沒有效果, if it killed them.
HENN: It didn't. First thing you should know about Dale Clayton is he is not, in fact, crazy. But he does know a lot about lice. For example, he knew that pigeon lice could never survive存活 and breed繁殖 on a human head. He also knew something else - that sudden changes in climate氣候的突然改變 can kill these bugs.
When he moved his lab to Utah猶他州, from Oxford in England, something very bad happened.
CLAYTON: It's quite arid異常乾燥 here. We couldn't keep lice alive on our birds, and we couldn't figure out why for a few months.
HENN: Turns out, lice get most of their moisture from the air. If you suck all the moisture out of a louse, you can dry it out, you can desiccate變乾/脫水 it; you can kill it.
Now, a bunch of dead lice may have been bad for Dale Clayton's research, but as a parent who was sick of nitpicking挑頭蝨(引申為吹毛求疵或是挑剔), he saw an opportunity. He imagined building a machine that could kill these annoying令人討厭的, little bugs by the thousands.
CLAYTON: We tried a bunch of different approaches to drying out lice.
HENN: He tried lots of different hair dryers - bonnets from beauty parlors and handhelds手持式吹風機; he tried those wall-mounted hand blowers壁掛式吹風機 you see in bathrooms.
CLAYTON: We even tried a leaf blower吹落葉機(國外常見工人拿來吹落葉的機器).
HENN: Dale Clayton became a bit obsessed走火入魔.
CLAYTON: At one point, we infested my kids with head lice - male lice only, so they couldn't breed - and treated them in the lab. They're in college now, but they like to tell that story to shock their friends.
HENN: Eventually, he and a team of engineers built the LouseBuster. It looks a little bit like your grandmother's old canister vacuum cleaner家用的拖曳式吸塵器 but instead of sucking air in, it blows hot air out. On the end of it, there's an attachment接上一個物件 that looks a bit like an overgrown, plastic porcupine長滿了刺的豪豬 - 28 little nozzles送風口 that direct air along the top of a scalp.
Getting treated with a LouseBuster takes about half an hour, and it feels a bit like a heated head massage.
NACHT: And that was it.
HENN: It kills lice, and it kills their eggs - the nits卵或是幼蟲.
NACHT: It's magic. It's amazing because nothing else kills the eggs.
HENN: Sheri Nacht says it may also have saved her sanity讓她不至於發瘋.
NACHT: If you can't kill the eggs and you don't find every last one of them, then you're starting all over again回到原點.
HENN: Today, Dale Clayton's company sells the LouseBuster to nurses, schools and hospitals, and it leases it to salons出借給美容沙龍 with names like Nitless Noggins and Hair Fairies.這些都是美髮沙龍的名字 [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: One of the salons leasing the LouseBuster was misidentified. It is Hair Whisperers, not Hair Fairies.更正說明,其中一家髮廊的名字應是Hair Whisperers,而非廣播內容所報導的Hair Fairies ] Dale Clayton doubts this invention will ever make him truly rich, but it has allowed him to scratch that entrepreneurial itch(止創業的癢)滿足一個渴望成為企業家的小夢.
Steve Henn, NPR News.



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