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Now We Can Look at Something that We Once Could Not: Scabies

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Even saying the word makes the head turn away, that is if you know what scabies is.

But there is some truly extraordinary news, a drug called Ivermectin not only cures scabies, but taking 1, maybe 2, pills can protect you from scabies, for years.

Here is the NY Times report, but be warned, the photo of the bug is horrifying.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a tiny, hard-to-see mite, that got its name for a Latin word that means scratch.  It has that name because this mite lays eggs under our skin, and when they hatch they cause a tremendously outrageous itch, and a red rash with trail marks from the mites burrows.  Horrifying.

Fortunately, scabies does not go beyond skin, so its miseries do not threaten any organs or life itself, but the experience can be truly agonizing.  In some parts of the world, scabies infections are a major source of psychological trauma.

What is Ivermectin?

Ivermectin turns out to be quite an amazing drug.  It was discovered in the early 1980’s, and quickly was found to kill parasites that cause world-levels of damage, such as river blindness.  So it works.  And it has so little side effect, so it is wildly safe.  It can cause grogginess even a temporary awkward gait, but not much else, and even that infrequently.  It has been used with millions of people to end communities ending up blind in Africa from river blindness.  The discovery of Ivermectin led to the Nobel Prize in 2015.  President Jimmy Carter promoted its use, leading to a near elimination of river blindness.

What does Ivermectin do to scabies?

Ivermectin damages the function of a special set of nerves, the nerves found in animals that have no spine, the inverterbrates.  All insects are invertebrates, we are not, we are all vertebrates, as are all mammals.  Millions and millions of animals, and humans, have taken ivermectin, and no substantial harm has been seen.  Unusually, some people find that their energy level may drop, or gait even get awkward, as noted, but this is unusual enough that the vast majority of people have no side effects.

When taken the drug remains in the blood stream for a prolonged period, so insects feasting on us all die, including scabies (and mosquitoes and lice).  Since the drug lingers, it destroys insects that bite and burrow on us for a long time too.

In short, one dose of Ivermectin is enough to cure scabies, and if a person is proven to have had it, a second dose a week or two later keeps them from recurring.

These findings, it should be noted, remain preliminary, further studies are needed to be sure it works this well, and remains this safe, even after one or two doses.

But if these findings are confirmed, we may be entering a new era in which a simple one-two pill regimen could eliminate insect troubles from our lives, including scabies.

BOTTOM LINES

  1. Scabies is one of those conditions that clearly gross people out.  But beyond that, the rash and itch are indeed terrible.
  2. We have lotions that treat scabies just fine even now, but the interesting drug Ivermectin may provide a truly remarkable cure with little treatment.  If these findings pan out, one or two pills, total, could protect people from scabies for a long time.  Whole communities could see this problem disappear, as they have seen river blindness disappear with the same treatment.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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