Scabies is a contagious skin infection caused by a microscopic mite, and causes intense itch. “Some people consider scabies to be nothing more than a nuisance, but it actually causes a whole raft of serious health consequences,” stated Dr. Andrew Steer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Australia. “Many serious complications relate to secondary infection of the skin by the group A Streptococcus bacteria. This can in turn cause life threatening infections, as well as non-infective complications of the kidneys and possibly the heart. We believe the downstream complications of scabies lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.”
“Scabies is a global problem,” reports Professor Roderick Hay, President of the International Foundation for Dermatology and author on the Viewpoint, “It affects the most vulnerable groups, including small children, women and the elderly in tropical, resource-poor settings. There is also a huge burden of disease in disadvantaged populations in wealthy countries, such as Indigenous populations in Australia and New Zealand, where up to 50% of some communities are affected during outbreaks.”
“The International Alliance for the Control of Scabies (IACS) was formed in 2012 to progress efforts to control scabies,” says Dr. Steer, “Over the last 12 months our membership has grown to over fifty members, representing every continent and bringing expertise from diverse areas such as clinical dermatology, infectious diseases, paediatrics, to public health researchers and scientists.”
The process to achieve global control will require action on a number of fronts. “We need to study new methods of treating scabies on a community or population level,” stated Daniel Engelman, Australian pediatrician and lead author, “There is emerging evidence that mass drug administration, which has been so successful for other NTDs, may be an effective strategy to control scabies. Further research is needed to inform all aspects of control, from biological to clinical and public health.”
Even amongst other NTDs, the impact of scabies has previously been largely ignored, something that the IACS is working to change. “The increasing understanding of the global importance of the NTDs offers great opportunities for learning more about scabies,” stated Professor Hay. “By partnering research and working collaboratively, we can investigate treatments and strategies that will treat multiple neglected diseases.”
For more information on the International Alliance for the Control of Scabies click here.
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases: doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002167
Authors: Daniel Engelman, Karen Kiang, Olivier Chosidow, James McCarthy, Claire Fuller, Patrick Lammie, Roderick Hay, Andrew Steer.