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Management of endemic outbreaks of scabies with allethrin, permethrin, and ivermectin


U.-F. Haustein, Liebigstrasse 21, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany


Background At three residences for the elderly, recurrent scabies infestations became out

of control. Due to the failure of repeated, nonsynchronized therapeutic efforts with

conventional external anti-scabies treatments, an eradication program had to be developed. We describe a protocol for the management of outbreaks of scabies.

Methods According to the clinical examination and microscopically identified mites, all individuals of the population (IOP: patients, staff, and family members) were divided into two groups: (a) healthy and infested IOP; and (b) cases with crusted scabies. The first group was treated simultaneously once with external scabicides (allethrin or permethrin). All others were hospitalized and treated either with systemic ivermectin or with the latter in combination with permethrin.

Results In 252 IOP living in three residences for the elderly, clinical signs of scabies were reported in 91.5%, 78.5%, and 15.4% of the patients (age 55–97 years; mean, 80.5 years), 54.1%, 32.9%, and 16.6% of staff members, and in 7%, 3%, and 0% of family members. The infested IOP showed crusted scabies (index cases) in 5.3%, 5.0%, and 1.7%, common scabies in 43.1%, 36.7%, and 7.1%, and postscabiotic dermatitis in 10.3%, 7.6%, and 3.5%. In 99.2% of the synchronously treated IOP in group (a) (n = 240), the conventional treatment with permethrin cream 5% or allethrin spray was effective. Group (b) (n = 12) received ivermectin (12 mg) once (n = 5) or twice (n = 7) after an interval of 8 days. One index case received permethrin three times.

Conclusions Outbreaks of scabies in populations of elderly people require special management for disease control. Synchronous treatment with external permethrin cream 5% or allethrin spray, including all IOP once, and close control offers a time-saving, cheap, and reliable method. Crusted scabies should be treated by oral administration of ivermectin once or twice after an interval of 8 days. Additional applications of permethrin and mechanical clearing of hyperkeratotic subungual areas shorten the course.