A Eureka moment for scabies treatment

A HUGE CONGRATS to Dr Margot Whitfield from St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, who was part of the Scabies Research Group which won a Eureka Prize this week!  They’ve worked tirelessly to reduce the prevalence of scabies in Fiji from 33% of the population to less than 2%. What an incredible achievement and an incredibly well deserved award!

Margot launched the project in 2006 at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, while working closely with the Ministries of Health of Fiji and Solomon Islands, Murdoch Children’s Institute in Melbourne, the Kirby Institute at UNSW and the Menzies School of Health Research, .  Left untreated this tiny mite can cause skin infections and even death.

This disease was added to the WHO list of neglected tropical diseases, but globally nobody conducted a project to find the best and safest way of reducing the problem. So Margot and the Scabies Research Group set about to fix this! They realised that the only way to get rid of this highly infectious disease that’s present at such a high level in the community, is to treat everyone.

They coordinated a team of dermatologists, paediatricians, epidemiologists medical offers, nurses, public health staff and statisticians from Australian and Fiji to develop two world-first trials involving the mass administration of the drug ivermectin to affected patients. After a few years they’ve seen incredible results, with only a very small percent of the population now affected.   And with this knowledge behind them, they’re able to expand their work and care to other affected communities including Indigenous Australians.

Donors to St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney have been vital to getting this project off the ground!  While Fijian government and local healthcare providers recognised that it was a significant health epidemic, they just didn’t have the money to fix it themselves.  So to all of you who have supported Margot and the work of the Scabies Research Group over the years, we want to say THANKS for saving lives!

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