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September 2018

Scabies—An Ancient Disease With Unanswered Questions in Modern Times

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital
  • 2Department of Dermatology, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, United Kingdom
  • 3International Foundation for Dermatology, London, United Kingdom
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(9):999-1000. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.1891

Scabies, believed to have been first described by Aristotle (384-322 bc) in ancient Greece, has been with humankind throughout the ages. During the past decade, there has been a resurgence of global interest in scabies owing to enhanced awareness of its detrimental effect on health. The World Health Organization recently added scabies to its list of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which are a group of diseases, primarily infectious, prevalent in tropical and subtropical world regions that cause enduring disfigurement and debilitation, leading to social stigma and the inability to work or attend school. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 billion people—about one-sixth of the world’s population—have 1 or more NTDs, which cost developing economies billions of dollars annually. With an NTD designation, the World Health Organization increases the spotlight on Sarcoptes scabiei and calls on organizations, governments, researchers, funders, and policymakers to respond. Why such attention on this mite that does not even burrow beyond the stratum corneum?

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