Scabies Cause, Transmission and Risk Factors

Scabies is a skin disease caused by itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. These mites are small eight legged parasites, approximately 1/3rd mm long and make burrows in the skin, which is the cause of itching. Itching tend to be worse at night. Sarcoptes scabiei can be seen using a magnifying glass with naked eye. Scabies infestation is generally by female mites which are generally double the size of males. Females are about 0.3-0.4 mm long and males are half the size of females.

Scabies (infestation by itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei is called scabies) is a common skin problem throughout the world, especially where living condition is poor. Scabies is common among poor socioeconomic groups, but occurs in all classes of society. It is estimated that more than 300 million cases of scabies occurs across the globe every year. Scabies can occur in epidemics in institutions (hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, long tern care facilities, mental asylums, army barracks and other institutions).

Transmission of scabies:

Transmission of scabies usually occurs due to direct skin-to-skin contact. Sharing of cloth items (such as towels and other cloths, sharing same bed) can also cause transmission of scabies. Sexual contact usually means direct and intimate skin-to-skin contact, hence may lead to transmission of scabies. That is the reason; some authors classify scabies as STD (sexually transmitted disease). In fact, among sexually active individuals, sexual contact is the commonest mode of transmission of scabies. Children usually do not contact scabies from school, because prolonged direct skin-to-skin contact usually do not occur at school.

Itch mites generally live off for 24-48 hours, because they are highly sensitive to their environment. Hence; they always search a new host for infestation.

What are the risk factors of scabies?

The only risk factor for transmission of scabies is prolonged and direct skin-to-skin contact with an individual having scabies. Outbreaks may occur during winter months, when people tend to remain close to each other for prolonged period, sufficient for transmission of scabies mite.

The most important risk factor for transmission of scabies is therefore a close friend or relative (spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or children) with scabies.


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