Scabies is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • A contagious parasitic infection of the skin caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, var. hominis
  • System(s) affected: skin/exocrine
  • Synonym(s): sarcoptic mange


Predominant age: children and young adults


Prevalence varies substantially worldwide but is more common in resource-poor settings (1):

  • May be more prevalent in urban areas and areas of overcrowding
  • Common in developing countries particularly tropical climates; 2013 added to World Health Organization list of neglected tropical diseases

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Itching is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction to the mite saliva, eggs, or excrement.
  • S. scabiei, var. hominis
    • An obligate human parasite
    • Female mite lays eggs in burrows in the stratum corneum and epidermis.
    • Primarily transmitted by prolonged human-to-human direct skin contact
    • Infrequently transmitted via fomites (e.g., bedding, clothing, or furnishings)

Risk Factors

  • Personal skin-to-skin contact (e.g., sexual promiscuity, crowding, nosocomial infection)
  • Poor nutritional status, poverty, and homelessness
  • Hot, tropical climates
  • Seasonal variation: Incidence may be higher in the winter than in the summer (may be due to overcrowding).
  • Immunocompromised patients, including those with HIV/AIDS, are at increased risk of developing severe (crusted/Norwegian) scabies.

General Prevention

Prevent outbreaks by prompt treatment and cleansing of fomites (see “Additional Therapies”).

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* When formatting your citation, note that all book, journal, and database titles should be italicized* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Scabies ID - 116544 ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Stephens,Mark B, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -