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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Oct;1078:223-35.

Arthropod-borne diseases in homeless.

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Unité des rickettsies, CNRS UMR 6020, IFR 48, Faculté de médecine, 27 bd, J Moulin, 13385 Marseille, cedex 5, France.


Homeless people are particularly exposed to ectoparasite. The living conditions and the crowded shelters provide ideal conditions for the spread of lice, fleas, ticks, and mites. Body lice have long been recognized as human parasites and although typically prevalent in rural communities in upland areas of countries close to the equator, it is now increasingly encountered in developed countries especially in homeless people or inner city economically deprived population. Fleas are widespread but are not adapted to a specific host and may occasionally bite humans. Most common fleas that parasite humans are the cat, the rat, and the human fleas, Ctenocephalides felis, Xenopsylla cheopis, and Pulex irritans, respectively. Ticks belonging to the family Ixodidae, in particular, the genera Dermacentor, Rhipicephalus, and Ixodes, are frequent parasites in humans. Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis is a mite (Arachnida class) responsible for scabies. It is an obligate parasite of human skin. The hematophagic-biting mite, Liponyssoides sanguineus, is a mite of the rat, mouse, and other domestic rodents but can also bite humans. Finally, the incidence of skin disease secondary to infestation with the human bedbug, Cimex lectularius, has increased recently. Bacteria, such as Wolbacchia spp. have been detected in bedbug. The threat posed by the ectoparasite in homeless is not the ectoparasite themselves but the associated infectious diseases that they may transmit to humans. Except for scabies all these ectoparasites are potential vectors for infectious agents. Three louse-borne diseases are known at this time. Trench fever caused by Bartonella quintana (B. quintana), epidemic typhus caused by Rickettsia prowazekii, and relapsing fever caused by the spirochete Borrelia recurrentis. Fleas transmit plague (Xenopsylla cheopis and Pulex irritans), murine typhus (Xenopsylla cheopis), flea-borne spotted rickettsiosis on account of the recently described species Rickettsia felis (C. felis), and occasionally cat scratch disease on account of Bartonella henselae (C. felis). The role of fleas as potential vector of B. quintana has recently been suggested. Among the hematophagic-biting mites, L. sanguineus, is responsible for the transmission of Rickettsia akari, the etiologic agent of rickettsialpox. Virtually, no data are available on tick-borne disease in this population. This article will deal with epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of these ectoparasite and the infectious diseases they transmit to the homeless people.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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