Dr. Williams' Licekiller Ends an Insecticide Era
You don't have to be lousy any more.
Two Harvard scientists have produced a synthetic hormone that kills body lice every time. The little mites carry epidemic typhus, trench fever, epidemic relapsing fever and other things that can make you feel out of sorts.
Dr. Carroll Williams of Harvard's biological laboratories, with Dr. J. W. Vinson of the School of Public Health, carried our experiments on the School's own colony of body lice.
Dr. Williams discovered the insecticide two years ago in the pulp of American newspapers and paper toweling. It stops the bug from reaching maturity and kills louse eggs before they can hatch.
The discovery is of special importance because most insects have by this time developed a resistance to the standard 'n-secticides, which were developed around World War II. Today DDT wouldn't kill a fly, much less a louse.
Chemical firms have developed more powerful bug-killers, but the newer poisons take out everything in sight, including Boston's lovely butterflies and bluebirds.
The Williams insecticide, which can be synthesized in the laboratory or extracted from one kind of wood pulp, resembles a hormone found inside the insects themselves. This hormone, discovered more than a decade ago by Dr. Williams, prevents insects from maturing and from proceeding from one normal stage of development to the next in the process called metamorphasis.
This "juvenile hormone" is needed in the early stage of growth, but must be absent later for the insect to metamorphose. If this hormone is artificially forced on the but, it will not reach sexual maturity.
Unlike toxic insecticides, juvenile hormones will not harm plants or animals. Nor can insects develop a resistance to it since they need the hormone for early growth.
At first Williams' synthetic product was too powerful. "We have what could kill all the insects in the world, if we ever unleashed it."
His present insecticide goes specifically after lice.
It contains six elements with juvenile hormone-like activity.