Crawling Through your Skin

English: Photo of AIDS Patient with crusted Sc...

English: Photo of AIDS Patient with crusted Scabies. Patient reported it took 6 months for this to develop after an initial “itch” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think Christa Gurriera (11 AM Micro) became really worried about the idea of parasites, as she found a news article in the New England Journal of Medicine (wOOt) about scabies:

According to this article Scabies is a mite induced parasitic infection. The specific mite is called Sarcoptes scabiei. This parasite is so common that there are about 300 million cases yearly. This is a worldwide problem and an issue that is not gender specific. This infection is a risk for any sex, people at all ages, and for all ethnicities. Although scabies is not specific, it is a popular infection in urban areas and in women and children. Scabies is uncomfortable, very contagious and is spread through skin to skin contact.

Common signs and symptoms include itching, a severe rash and an infection.  The main symptom that Scabies is known for is the relentless itch and red bumps in addition to dark, crusted scabs that form all over the skin. Signs can be measured by a doctor or physician and symptoms tend to vary from patient to patient. People who develop an infection can also form impetigo. Impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria invasion and leads to inflammation.

The mite is an eight legged parasite that can crawl and lives out its entire life on humans. Female mites are the ones that burrow into the skin. You can analyze these parasites under the microscope. The mites take about fifteen days to mature and the larvae come to the surface of the skin about two to three days post eggs being hatched.  The incubation period takes about five to six weeks but could also occur faster depending on the patient. Millions of crusted scabies could potentially form on the skin, due to the skins sensitivity to the mite.

Mentioned before, Scabies is transmitted through direct skin to skin contact. Intimacy, such as sexual contact is one of the most common ways that this infection is spread and is also why Scabies is referred to as a Sexually Transmitted Disease. Homosexual men are at a higher risk of being contaminated with the parasite. Sharing clothing and a close environment with people who have been infected are high risks for others to be contaminated. Proper hygiene and avoidance are successful prevention methods.

Diagnosis is mostly based on the appearance and location of the rash and the characteristic lesions from the burrows in the skin and small bumps that take over. Scabies commonly form on the head, face and the lesions are usually in the finger webs, the flexor surfaces of the wrists, the elbows, unfortunately on the genitalia and on the breasts of women.

There are numerous diagnostic techniques but a common test includes a physician laterally scraping the skin with a blade, no bleeding should occur and the specimens can be observed under low power with a light microscope. A skin biopsy can also confirm the diagnosis although findings are frequently absent. Treatment includes oral or topical products. Lindane and permethrin are recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention as topical therapy. Another option is an oral ivermectin which is an agent that has been used for many parasitic infections.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on November 26, 2012, in gross, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Crawling Through your Skin.

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