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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Jan 02, 2024  1 month, 2 weeks, 5 days, 10 hours, 18 minutes ago

BREAKING Medical News! Scabies Outbreak Across Most Of United Kingdom Amidst Drug Shortage And Possible Drug Resistance!

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BREAKING Medical News! Scabies Outbreak Across Most Of United Kingdom Amidst Drug Shortage And Possible Drug Resistance!
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Jan 02, 2024  1 month, 2 weeks, 5 days, 10 hours, 18 minutes ago
Medical News: In a shocking turn of events, the United Kingdom is currently grappling with a significant surge in scabies cases, a highly contagious skin condition caused by parasitic mites. This outbreak is exacerbated by a severe shortage of scabies treatments, including permethrin and malathion, two main options available in the UK. The scarcity of these treatments, coupled with potential drug resistance, has created a public health crisis that dermatologists and healthcare professionals are struggling to address promptly.

The Treatment Shortage and Its Consequences
The shortage of scabies treatments in the UK can be traced back to a combination of factors, including disruptions in the supply chain, the war in Ukraine affecting raw material costs, and increased demand. This scarcity has resulted in a nightmare scenario, as dermatologists and general practitioners are finding it challenging to provide swift and effective treatment, leading to a surge in scabies cases, particularly in the north of England.
The consequences of untreated scabies are far-reaching, with outbreaks reported in care homes, nursing homes, and university accommodations. The lack of comprehensive tracking of scabies cases raises concerns that the extent of the problem might be underestimated, posing a serious threat to public health. Individuals affected by scabies have even resorted to purchasing expensive alternative treatments online, highlighting the desperation caused by the treatment shortage.
The Perspective of Medical Professionals
Medical professionals, including Prof Mabs Chowdhury, the president of the British Association of Dermatologists, emphasize the urgent need for attention to the scabies treatment shortage. Prof Chowdhury told various Medical News outlets that the ease with which scabies spreads, especially in communal living facilities like care homes and university residences makes the spread easy and fast. The lack of comprehensive tracking and the social stigma associated with scabies contribute to the challenges in addressing and containing the outbreak effectively.
A survey commissioned by the British Association of Dermatologists reveals a concerning increase in scabies cases across various regions in the UK. Dermatologists in the north-east describe a vicious cycle where the shortage of treatments leads to increased infection spread, creating additional strain on healthcare resources.
Rising Scabies Cases and Impact on Quality of Life
As winter approaches and people spend more time indoors, the likelihood of scabies cases further increasing becomes a significant concern. Prof Kamila Hawthorne, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, notes the growing rate of scabies presentations, particularly in the north of England. The condition, while not inherently serious, can severely impact an individual's quality of life and pose risks of complications if not treated promptly.
The shortage of the two most commonly used medications, permethrin cream and malathion lotion, adds to the challenges faced by GPs and pharmacists, who are already under immense pressure during peak seasons. This shortage not on ly exacerbates the current public health crisis but also underscores the need for a robust healthcare system to address such emergencies effectively.
Scabies Outbreak Triggers Fear of Drug Resistance
The alarming increase in scabies cases has raised concerns about the possibility of drug resistance. In November, the rate of scabies cases was double the seasonal average, with experts fearing a resurgence of the disease driven by actual or pseudo resistance to treatment. The data from the Royal College of General Practitioners indicates a sharp rise in recorded cases, emphasizing the urgency of investigating the root causes.
European researchers are currently assessing whether drug resistance or "pseudo resistance" caused by improper treatment by patients could be contributing to the surge. The challenges associated with using permethrin cream, the first-line treatment, may be a factor, leading to a search for alternative drugs like Ivermectin, recently granted a UK license for easier prescription.
Studies have however showed that both permethrin resistant and even ivermectin resistant scabies are emerging!
Social Stigma, Mental Health Impact, and the Scabies Alliance
 Dr Tess McPherson, the president of the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Dermatology, emphasizes the need to reduce the stigma associated with scabies, noting that anyone can contract the condition, regardless of hygiene. Claire Fuller, co-founder of the scabies alliance, highlights the mental health impact of scabies, with shame about the condition contributing to destructive consequences, including a significant suicide rate in some regions.
A personal account shared in The Times illustrates the psychological toll of scabies, with a woman detailing her struggles, the financial burden, and the lasting impact on her mental health. The story emphasizes the urgency of addressing not only the physical effects of scabies but also the associated mental health challenges.
Possible Causes and Future Considerations
The exact reasons for the surge in scabies cases remain under investigation. While shortages of permethrin and malathion may have eased, the rise in cases suggests other contributing factors. Some experts suspect drug resistance, while others consider the possibility of "pseudo resistance" due to improper treatment.
Overcrowded conditions, such as those in student halls, nursing homes, and migrant camps, are identified as potential hotspots for scabies outbreaks. However, it is crucial to avoid stigmatizing any particular group, as the conditions that foster scabies outbreaks are often systemic.
The lack of a simple scabies test further complicates tracking and containment efforts. Researchers are working towards developing a test, which could be a significant advancement in managing and preventing future outbreaks.
The Impact on Healthcare Providers
 The challenges posed by the scabies outbreak extend to healthcare providers, including general practitioners and pharmacists. Prof Kamila Hawthorne highlights the pressures on GPs and pharmacists during peak seasons, emphasizing that any medication shortages, even if temporary, worsen the situation. The strain on healthcare resources is further exacerbated by the increased demand for scabies treatments, underscoring the need for strategic planning and resource allocation.

Global Perspective on Scabies
The surge in scabies cases in the UK is not an isolated phenomenon. Dr Michael Marks, an epidemiologist and chairman of the International Alliance for the Control of Scabies, notes that the rise in cases is not specific to the UK, with other European countries also reporting increasing numbers. The global burden of scabies is substantial, affecting up to 35% of the population in some countries.
Globally, scabies is recognized as a significant public health concern, with potential complications such as renal and heart disease in areas where the disease is endemic. The possibility of drug resistance in the UK raises broader global implications, emphasizing the need for international collaboration in researching and addressing scabies outbreaks.
The scabies outbreak in the United Kingdom, fueled by treatment shortages and potential drug resistance, has evolved into a major global public health crisis. The urgency of addressing the shortage of scabies treatments, reducing social stigma, understanding the root causes of the surge, and developing comprehensive strategies is paramount. Collaborative efforts from healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, and international organizations are essential to effectively manage the current outbreak and develop strategies to prevent and mitigate future occurrences.
As winter progresses, the challenges posed by the scabies outbreak require immediate attention and comprehensive solutions to protect the health and well-being of the population. The impact on mental health, the strain on healthcare resources, and the potential for global implications necessitate a holistic approach to public health crises, emphasizing both physical and psychological well-being. Addressing the scabies outbreak is not only a national priority but also a global responsibility that requires united efforts to safeguard public health.
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