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Int J Parasitol. 2004 Jun;34(7):839-49.

Genetic epidemiology of Sarcoptes scabiei (Acari: Sarcoptidae) in northern Australia.

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Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Qld, Australia.


Utilising three hypervariable microsatellite markers we have previously shown that scabies mites on people are genetically distinct from those on dogs in sympatric populations in northern Australia. This had important ramifications on the formulation of public health control policies. In contrast phylogenetic analyses using mitochondrial markers on scabies mites infecting multiple animal hosts elsewhere in the world could not differentiate any genetic variation between mite haplotype and host species. Here we further analyse the intra-specific relationship of Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis with S. scabiei var. canis by using both mitochondrial DNA and an expanded nuclear microsatellite marker system. Phylogenetic studies using sequences from the mitochondrial genes coding for 16S rRNA and Cytochrome Oxidase subunit I demonstrated significant relationships between S. scabiei MtDNA haplotypes, host species and geographical location. Multi-locus genotyping using 15 microsatellite markers substantiated previous data that gene flow between scabies mite populations on human and dog hosts is extremely rare in northern Australia. These data clearly support our previous contention that control programs for human scabies in endemic areas with sympatric S. scabiei var. hominis and var. canis populations must focus on human-to-human transmission. The genetic division of dog and human derived scabies mites also has important implications in vaccine and diagnostic test development as well as the emergence and monitoring of drug resistance in S. scabiei in northern Australia.

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