Australian researchers have used cutting-edge genome technologies to reveal the genetic makeup of a widespread skin parasite causing serious health problems in Aboriginal communities. The research team identified the mitochondrial genetic map of the human parasitic scabies mite, accelerating research that could lead to new ways of preventing and treating scabies infestations and prevent lifelong complications for people in remote Aboriginal communities. Scabies is a contagious and extremely itchy skin infestation caused by scabies mites. Scabies is rife in many remote Aboriginal communities in Australia, affecting one in two children and one in four adults each year. Scabies infestations often become infected, causing serious, even lifelong or fatal, complications, such as bacterial blood infections (sepsis), and are associated with serious kidney and heart diseases. The new research was led by Associate Professor Tony Papenfuss from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Dr. Katja Fischer from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Queensland, and was published on February 12, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The article is titled “Mitochondrial Genome Sequence of the Scabies Mite Provides Insight into the Genetic Diversity of Individual Scabies Infections.” Genomic technologies are critical for finding ways to prevent and control scabies, Associate Professor Papenfuss said. "A shocking seven out of ten children in remote Aboriginal communities will contract scabies before they reach one year of age," he said. Scabies wounds often become infected by Group A streptococcus bacteria, which can cause rheumatic fever, acute kidney disease, and rheumatic heart disease. These infections have dramatic effects on life quality and expectancy.
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