Working to eliminate scabies.
Scabies is a parasitic infestation of the skin with the parasitic “itch mite” Sarcoptes scabiei. It is a significant disease worldwide in humans, wildlife, livestock and domestic animals and is a particularly serious problem in many remote Indigenous communities where overcrowded living conditions are a major factor contributing to high rates of transmission.
The emerging resistance of scabies mites to current treatments makes the development of alternative treatments a high priority.
We have been studying the molecular mechanisms of the emerging drug-resistance in scabies mites in order to monitor, and control the development of drug resistance in these mites.
An established in vitro sensitivity assay is used to monitor the sensitivity to current treatments of scabies mites collected from crusted scabies patients. In this way we can monitor the emergence of drug resistance, as well as the progress of treatment for individual patients .
We are also investigating the role of a scabies mite aspartic protease in burrowing into and surviving on the skin of their host. A molecule which is essential for mite survival would be an excellent target for the design of an alternative treatment for scabies. We have shown that the aspartic protease is localised to the gut of the scabies mite and that the protein is capable of digesting several skin molecules including fibrinogen, fibronectin and laminin.
In collaboration with Professor Ben Dunn at the University of Florida, we have studied the properties of this enzyme and have identified a molecule which inhibits the activity of this enzyme. We will now test this inhibitor for activity against live mites.
Staff: Deborah Holt, Linda Viberg, Bart Currie
Students: Wajahat Mahmood
Collaborators: University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Institute of Medical Research