The earth as we know it, is home to millions of organisms big and small, each and every one of them adding to the planet’s diversity. The survival of these organisms is interdependant, and very well organised into what we call a “food chain” or “food web”. Humans are just as equally involved in this cycle as is a tiny bacterium. Included in this cycle are a few small organisms that depend on humans for their food. These creatures, harbour themselves in the human body, and nourish themselves by feeding on human flesh and blood. These organisms may live either inside or outside the body and are called parasites. Effects of parasitic action of these organisms on the body may either be harmless or fatal. While leeches and lice are the most commonly known ones, another lesser known parasite houses itself in the human skin leading to severe itching and inflammatory responses that are categorised under a disease called scabies. Here are a few facts that expand on the procuration and effects of the disease caused by the parasite.
1. What is scabies?
Scabies is a contagious dermatosis caused by a parasite called Sarcoptis Scabiei. This parasite is responsible for itchiness and rashes caused on the body and are also called the itch mite.
2. The disease was first identified, name and described way back, in 25BC by the Greek medical writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus.
Aulus Cornelius celsus wrote numerous books on medicine and pathology. His most famous writings however include pathological topics on dermatology.
3. What part of the body does it affect?
The itch mite causing scabies usually lodges itself between folds of skin. The most commonly affected areas include gap between fingers and toes, groin or genitals, breasts, neck and elbow.
4. Pathogenesis of the disease.
The female mite produces burrows on the skin. The burrow traverses the keratin layer and the female itch mite may be present at the end of the burrow. Along its path, the itch mite lays its eggs that develop to form larvae and affect the other parts of the body. This may lead to inflammations.
5. Transmission of the disease.
Scabies is a disease that gets transmitted through contact. One gets affected by this disease due to frequent exposure to large crowds and close contact with affected persons. It also gets transmitted through sexual contact. Sharing clothes with an affected person may also result in scabies.
6. Symptoms of the disease.
The most common symptom that helps identify the disease is itching. The itching sensation generally increases during the night as mites are most active during the night. Other symptoms include rashes that may develop into pimply sores.
7. Who gets affected the most by this disease?
Almost all humans are viable to being affected by this disease. It is however most widely present in children and young adults due their frequent contact with large crowds in schools. Toddlers and elderly people may also be victims to the disease when exposed to unsanitary conditions.
8. Diagnosis of the disease.
Diagnosis of scabies is initiated by crossing out the presence of allergic reactions and other dermatologic diseases. The doctor then checks the skin for presence of burrows where a mite may be present. The removed skin sample is tested and examined for the presence of mites and eggs.
9. Treatments for the disease.
Treatment for scabies usually begins almost immediately after it has been identified. The medicines usually adminstered include those that are directly applied on to the skin. These medicines constitute mostly benzyl benzoate lotion. Other drugs for inflammations and rashes may also be prescribed. In severe cases, the doctor may advice the patient to take antibiotics to prevent supression of the immune system. The effect of the disease may however take a long time to fade off depending on the intensity of mite infection.
10. The science behind the crusted scabies.
A more serious pathology of scabies is the crusted scabies. It results in the formation of huge crusts of skin with or without rashes and itchiness. Patients affected by this disease have low immunity. This is because the crusted scabies is a result of reproduction of large number of mites and her eggs. These mites when in large numbers are capable of overpowering the immune system of the human and thus grow in large numbers at a faster rate.