MCRI researcher giving child scabies treatment

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) World Scabies Program has completed the first round of its mass roll-out of an anti-parasitic drug in the Solomon Islands and Fiji, helping to protect millions from the contagious skin condition.

The project, one of the Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award winners, has this year administered scabies treatment, ivermectin, to the population of the two Pacific nations to reduce the burden of scabies, a significant public health problem in this region. The Solomon Islands and Fiji are the first countries in the world to conduct a national mass drug administration for the control of scabies.

The impact of the program in the Solomon Islands has been captured in a new video, produced by Macquarie.

More than 200 million people globally are affected by scabies, a tropical skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow under the skin. Scabies impacts quality of life and can cause severe skin infections and in some cases lead to fatal conditions, causing significant strain on the economic and social development of communities.

The funding from the Macquarie award supports the World Scabies Program, an MCRI initiative that oversees community-based treatment programs.

MCRI’s program is working to eliminate scabies as a public health concern by supplying ivermectin to 1.5 million people living in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Research by MCRI, the Kirby Institute and the Fiji and the Solomon Islands Ministries of Health has showed that community-wide ivermectin treatment reduces scabies prevalence by up to 94 per cent.

World Scabies Program Director and MCRI Professor Professor Andrew Steer said, “We know ivermectin is safe, it's been given to over a billion people, and what we know from our research, and other's research, is that when given to communities at the one time, the drug is highly effective in reducing the burden on scabies.”

The World Scabies Program focuses on advocating for scabies control at both national and global levels, implementing broad-scale community treatment strategies and empowering health systems to effectively monitor and manage scabies.