More than 130 million people around the world, in developing and developed countries alike, are itching because of scabies. It’s caused by an infestation of the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei (pictured), which burrows underneath the upper layers of the skin to lay its eggs. As if that wasn't bad enough, breaching the skin’s epidermis then offers a niche for opportunistic pathogens, such as the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. To look into the changes in skin microorganisms that accompany scabies, researchers have created a model of the mite infestation in pigs. In healthy skin these bacteria aren’t usually harmful to their host; however, with scabies the Staphylococci started to produce infections. And there were more species of Staphylococcus present increasing the risk of serious secondary infections and making them more difficult to treat. Understanding the interplay between scabies and bacteria could inform new strategies for managing this debilitating condition.
Written by Katie Panteli
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.