Novel insights into an old disease: recent developments in scabies mite biology

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Scabies is a serious disease of both humans and other animals caused by infestation of the skin with the ectoparasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Our current understanding of scabies mite biology and disease processes is far outweighed by the significant, worldwide impact of the disease. This review summarizes the recent data which furthers our knowledge of mite biology, host specificity and parasite host evasion mechanisms.

Recent findings

Recent data concords with the previous work demonstrating limited gene flow between different host-associated populations of scabies mites. This evidence of the host specificity of scabies mites has important implications for disease control programmes. Other studies have begun to decipher the molecular basis of the complex host–parasite interactions underlying scabies infestations. Scabies mites have developed complex mechanisms to interfere with the host defence processes that may also enhance the survival of the associated skin microbiome, consistent with the epidemiological evidence. Recently developed natural host models of scabies are valuable tools to further study the disease processes and to trial novel therapeutic agents.

Summary

Although significant progress has been made, further research is needed to understand the biology, host–parasite interactions and pathogenesis of this ubiquitous parasite.

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