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Biology, diagnosis and management of sarcoptic mange

02 June 2015
7 mins read
Volume 6 · Issue 5


Scabies (also known as sarcoptic mange) is a common, highly contagious skin disease in animals and humans. It is caused by the ectoparasitic burrowing mite Sarcoptes scabiei (family: Sarcoptidae), which has a worldwide distribution. Animals and humans can be infested by their own S. scabiei subtype; however crossspecies transmission may occur. The socioeconomic and public health importance of scabies is significant. The disease occurs when the mite burrows into the skin and feeds on host epidermis. Disease manifestations are mediated via inflammatory and allergic responses to mite products, which result in severely pruritic lesions. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is essential to minimise the spread of infestation. Veterinary nurses have a vital role to play in early recognition, diagnosis and for providing owners with accurate accessible advice to prevent zoonotic transmission. This article summarises the latest data on the biology, diagnosis and control of scabies.

Scabies (sarcoptic mange) is a highly contagious, pruritic skin disease in animals and humans caused by the obligate ectoparasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The term scabies is derived from the Latin word scabere, meaning ‘to scratch’. S. scabiei is an arthropod taxonomically belongs to class Arachnida and family Sarcoptidae. Adult mites are roughly circular in shape, without a distinctive head, but have spine-like projections on the dorsal surface and four pairs of short legs (Figure 1). Females are almost twice as large as males. The female measures about 0.3 to 0.5 mm long by 0.3 mm wide, and the male is around 0.25 mm long by 0.2 mm wide. S. scabiei mites infest warm-blooded animals and tend to be host specific, with little transmission to other animal species or humans. Human scabies is caused by S. scabiei var. hominis. Other sarcoptic mites that can be found on animals, and occasionally infest humans include S. scabiei var. canis (dogs), S. scabiei var. bovis (cattle), S. scabiei var. caprae (goats), S. scabiei var. equi (horses), and S. scabiei var. suis (pigs).

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