Nijmegen microbiologist calls for coordinated scabies approach

20 Oct 2022

Scabies appears to be a growing problem among students. Physician and microbiologist at the Radboudumc Matthew McCall believes it is time for a regionally coordinated approach by the GGD (public health service, ed.). 'Through source and contact investigation and extra information, we can identify a mini outbreak and prevent a larger one.'

Since the end of last year, the number of scabies cases known to general practitioners (GPs) has doubled compared to previous years. This is according to a poll by research institute Nivel. Especially young people and students bear the brunt of the mites, which dig small tunnels in the skin. The eggs and faeces they leave there lead to bumps that can itch pretty bad.

According to McCall, there is no immediate reason for panic: ‘There are indeed more reports, but that could also be the result of the increased media attention the topic has received these last years. Because of that, students might be more inclined to visit a GP when they have symptoms such as a rash and itching. This way, more scabies cases are identified.’


The microbiologist does argue for a regionally coordinated scabies approach to prevent large outbreaks. According to him, the current approach is not airtight. This is partly because it is not always easy for general practitioners to recognise scabies.

‘If there are multiple cases of a rash and itching in one family, a GP will usually think of scabies.’ For student houses, this is a bit more difficult since roommates do not all have the same GP. Symptoms are often attributed to eczema.

Scabies polyclinic

‘The GGD can prevent this by mapping where cases are located per municipality and thus determining where certain hotspots are’, says McCall. ‘If there is a small outbreak, for example in student communities, the GGD can deploy source and contact investigations and provide extra information.’

The GGD is working on that, says McCall. ‘In Leiden, they’ve set up scabies consultation hours and there is a team of the National Coordination of Infectious Disease Control working on policy, but regional coordination is lacking at the moment.’

Translated by Jan Scholten

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