Scabies

Scabies

theconversation.com – 15th November, 2016

Mites living in your skin are just the start of the problems that come with having scabies.

The highly infectious parasitic condition is linked with extreme itchiness, bacterial infections and kidney damage, plus debilitating social and economic consequences.

But we’re not addressing the problem. Although a drug of known safety and efficacy is available, scabies still affects more than 100 million people across the world who can’t break free of illness and reinfection cycles.

This week the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases and the International Alliance for the Control of Scabies met to refocus efforts to reduce the impact of scabies across the world.

Scabies: mites living in your skin

Scabies is a skin disease caused by infestation with a highly infectious microscopic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. Less than 1mm in size, the mite burrows into the skin, and leads to intense itching and visible sores. Sleep interruption and social stigmatisation result.

Intense scratching triggered by scabies infection also allows bacteria (Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus) to become established in the skin.

Scabies is usually treated with a topical cream: in Australia, permethrin is the common choice.

In addition to the infected person, household contacts are often infested with scabies, and so the whole household should be treated at once. However, uptake of treatment in household members is often very low and so re-infestation is common. In settings where the prevalence is high, it is very difficult to avoid re-infestation from other community members, especially among children.

Scabies is a huge global problem

Scabies affects more than 100 million people worldwide. It is especially common in the Pacific region: in Fiji, half of all primary school aged children have scabies, as well as one in five adults. Up to one third of people living in remote Australian Indigenous communities are infected.

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