Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Parasites Week Scratching the Surface
25 June 2014

Scratching the Surface

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

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