OBJECTIVES - To describe the clinical and immunological features of crusted scabies in a prospectively ascertained cohort of 78 patients.
METHODS - All patients requiring inpatient treatment for crusted scabies in the 'top end' of the northern territory of Australia over a 10 year period were prospectively identified. Demographics, risk factors, and immunological parameters were retrospectively compiled from their medical records and pathology databases.
RESULTS - More than half the patients with crusted scabies had identifiable immunosuppressive risk factors. Eosinophilia and elevated IgE levels occurred in 58% and 96% of patients, respectively, with median IgE levels 17 times the upper limit of normal. Seventeen percent had a history of leprosy but 42% had no identifiable risk factors. There was a decrease in mortality after the introduction of a treatment protocol consisting of multiple doses of ivermectin combined with topical scabicides and keratolytic therapy.
CONCLUSIONS - Crusted scabies often occurs in patients with identifiable immunosuppressive risk factors. In patients without such risk factors, it is possible that the crusted response to infection results from a tendency to preferentially mount a Th2 response. The treatment regime described was associated with a reduction in mortality. This is the largest reported case series of crusted scabies.