Scabies in the UK

Epidemiology of scabies prevalence in the U.K. from

general practice records

S. Lassa, M.J. Campbell and C.E. Bennett (2011)

British Journal of Dermatology  164, pp1329–1334


Background Scabies is a contagious parasitic infestation which causes an allergic

reaction to just a few mites.

Objectives To examine the epidemiology of scabies consultations in the U.K. by

age, sex, region of the country and time.

Methods Data were obtained from the THIN (The Health Information Network)

database provided by EPIC U.K. in which each consultation episode is coded

according to a ‘READ’ code. Data were available for 1997–2005 inclusive

(9 years) for approximately 8.5% of the U.K. population from 12 regions of the

U.K. We used harmonic analysis to model the data over time and derived cycle

amplitudes and phases for each region in the U.K.

Results There was a significantly greater infestation rate among females with a relative

risk of 1.24 (P < 0.001) relative to males. The age group 10–19 years had

the highest infestation rates (with rates of 4.55 per 1000 and 5.92 per 1000 for

males and females, respectively). The middle age groups had the smallest infestation

rates. A cycle with length of between 15 and 17 years was derived, and the

phase times of the cycles for each region suggested a progression of the disease

originating from the North East, spreading to Northern parts of the U.K. and

then to the Midlands and the South.

Conclusions The study confirms earlier studies with regard to the age sex distribution

of scabies. We suggest a contagious pattern of spread of scabies infestation

in the U.K. with an epidemic cycle length of 15–17 years.