Scabies: International Experts' Call to Action

A coalition of health ministries, investigators, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined the key steps to develop a global program to control scabies, a parasitic disease that affects 450 million people each year in mainly low-income countries.

A coalition of health ministries, investigators, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined the key steps to develop a global program to control scabies, a parasitic disease that affects 450 million people each year in mainly low-income countries.

The report highlighted key operational procedures, including methods of identifying scabies prevalence in all affected countries. Investigators noted that a major priority was mapping the global scabies problem using skin examinations conducted by community health workers and nurses.

Also indicated within the report was how the scabies infection rates could be reduced by more than 90% with an antiparasitic medication called ivermectin. The authors called for a global strategy to tackle scabies that incorporates 5 key steps: develop a global strategy for the control of scabies, map the affected global population, facilitate affordable and reliable access to treatment, scale up mass drug administration strategies in the most harshly affected countries, and collaborate with affected communities and health programs.

Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite. It burrows into and lives in the upper layer of human skin, then lays its eggs there, according to the CDC.

The most common symptoms include intense itching and a pimplelike skin rash. It is a disease seen most often in patients of low economic status who live in crowded and warm environments.

No blood test nor standardized approach to diagnosis exists, according to lead author Daniel Engelman, MD.

Published in the Lancet, the research paper was supported by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in collaboration with the International Alliance for the Control of Scabies; international investigators; the ministries of health in Ethiopia, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands; and WHO.

References

  • International experts call for action for world's 450 million scabies sufferers. Murdoch Children's Research Institute website. mcri.edu.au/news/international-experts-call-action-worlds-450-million-scabies-sufferers. Published June 7, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  • Scabies frequently asked questions. CDC website. cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/gen_info/faqs.html. Updated October 24, 2018. Accessed June 17, 2019.