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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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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Scabies." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116544/all/Scabies.
Scabies. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116544/all/Scabies. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Scabies. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116544/all/Scabies
Scabies [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 March 24]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116544/all/Scabies.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Scabies ID - 116544 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116544/all/Scabies PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -