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Scabies: A Neglected Global Disease

[ Vol. 16 , Issue. 1 ]


Alexander K.C. Leung*, Joseph M. Lam and Kin F. Leong   Pages 33 - 42 ( 10 )


Background: Scabies is a skin disease caused by an obligate human parasite mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. Children under the age of two and elderly individuals are at the greatest risk. Knowledge of this condition is important for an early diagnosis to be made and treatment to be initiated.

Objective: The review aimed to familiarize physicians with the clinical manifestations, diagnosis, evaluation, and management of scabies.

Methods: A search was conducted using Pubmed with the built-in "Clinical Queries" tool. The search term "Scabies" was used. The categories of "epidemiology", "diagnosis", "therapy", "prevention" and "prognosis" had a limited scope for primary clinical studies. Meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, clinical trials, observational studies, and reviews were included. Only papers published in the English language were included. A descriptive, narrative synthesis was provided of the retrieved articles.

Results: Worldwide, scabies affects 200 to 300 million individuals annually. The average prevalence is estimated to be 5 to 10% in children of developing countries. Transmission usually occurs after close prolonged skin-to-skin contact. Classic scabies is characterized by an erythematous papular eruption, serpiginous burrows, and intense pruritus. Sites of predilection include the webs of the fingers, volar wrists, lateral aspects of fingers, extensor surfaces of elbows and knees, waist, navel, abdomen, buttocks, groins, and, genitals. A clinical diagnosis of classic scabies can be made on the basis of the history and clinical findings. Other clinical variants include crusted scabies, nodular scabies, and bullous scabies. Finding the mite, ova, or fecal pellets on microscopic examination of scrapings taken from skin lesions confirms the diagnosis of scabies infestation. For eradication of scabies mites, the drugs of choice are topical permethrin and oral ivermectin.

Conclusion: Scabies is a highly contagious parasitic cutaneous disease that is stigmatising and debilitating. Increased awareness, accurate diagnosis, and prompt treatment are essential for the effective control of scabies and for the prevention of the spread of the disease.


Intractable pruritus, ivermectin, permethrin, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, serpiginous burrows.


Department of Pediatrics, The University of Calgary, Alberta Children’s Hospital, Calgary, Alberta, Department of Pediatrics and Department of Dermatology and Skin Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Pediatric Institute, Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, Kuala Lumpur

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