A PCR test should detect scabies: 'it cannot be recognized with the naked eye'

A PCR test should detect scabies: ‘it cannot be recognized with the naked eye’

The number of people infected with scabies mite – a small spider-like creature that burrows into the skin – has been increasing in the Netherlands for years. Last year, 15 out of 100,000 people with scabies came to their GP. This year it is the 27th out of 100,000. This is evident from the GGD numbers.

In Amsterdam, the number of scabies cases has quadrupled compared to the end of 2021. “It is increasing especially among students,” Henri de Vries, dermatologist at GGD Amsterdam, tells Editie NL. “We also hear it in other student cities.”

work hours

Therefore GGD Amsterdam will increase the number of consultation hours. At the moment, there is already a counseling hour for students every Wednesday. “Scabies control in students’ homes is very difficult. That’s why it’s important to research the source and contact. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve during these counseling hours.”

Good idea, says medical microbiologist Matthew McCall of Radbodomic. “Today, controlling scabies is more difficult than it used to be,” he explains. “At that time, scabies mainly occurred within the family. Then the GP could treat the family once and it didn’t lead to a re-infection.”

It works differently with students. “If one person goes to the doctor, but the source isn’t removed, it will still spread. That’s why finding the source and getting in touch is so important.”

Learn about scabies

At the same time, GGD is developing a PCR test to detect scabies more easily and earlier. “There is often an uncertainty about spots on the skin,” says de Vries. “It is often difficult to see the difference between scabies and eczema. In addition, each person’s allergic reaction is different. One suffers from it more than the other. This makes it difficult to determine whether or not a person has scabies.”

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Using magnifying equipment such as a dermatoscope or microscope, the healthcare provider can show whether or not it is scabies. “But the problem is, these devices are not ubiquitous and not every nurse can handle them.”

So the PCR test should solve this problem. “The chips can be taken by any GP and nurse. Then they are examined in the laboratory in a short time,” explains de Vries.

Medical microbiologist McCall thinks GGD’s adherence to this is a good thing. “Not every GP or nurse analyst is equally trained.” Moreover, the PCR test is often more accurate than microscopy, he says. “You can then examine many scabies mites at the same time. That’s not possible under a microscope: Then you look at them one by one.”

In January, the GGD Amsterdam will start using the PCR test during consultation hours. Until now he is still a pilot.

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