Cochrane Summaries

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Interventions for treating scabies

Strong M, Johnstone P
Published Online: 
6 October 2010

Scabies is a parasitic infection of the skin. It occurs throughout the world, but is particularly problematic in areas of poor sanitation, overcrowding, and social disruption, and is endemic in many resource-poor countries. The global prevalence of scabies is estimated at 300 million cases, but the level of infection varies between countries and communities. The female mite burrows into the skin to lay eggs which then hatch out and multiply. The infection can spread from person to person via direct skin contact, including sexual contact. It causes intense itching with eruptions on the skin. Various drugs have been developed to treat scabies, and herbal and traditional medicines are also used. The review of trials attempted to cover all these. The authors identified 22 small trials involving 2676 people, with 19 of the trials taking place in resource-poor countries. Permethrin appeared to be the most effective topical treatment for scabies, and ivermectin appeared to be an effective oral treatment. However, ivermectin is unlicensed for this indication in many countries. Adverse events such as rash, vomiting, and abdominal pain were reported, but the trials were too small to properly assess serious but rare potential adverse effects. No trials of herbal or traditional medicines were identified for inclusion.