Chapter

Arthropods and Human Skin

pp 227-292

Scabies

  • John O’Donel AlexanderAffiliated withUniversity of Glasgow

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Abstract

In discussing the history of scabies Pye-Smith (1893) wrote,

Scabies is really one of the most important diseases from a scientific point of view; for it illustrates the whole progress of scientific medicine—the ancient method, which still survives, of inventing explanations instead of investigation circumstances, the fallacy of ascribing results of dyscrasias, of which the existence has never been proved, the survival of doctrines of pathology which have long since been exploded in physiology, the value of apparently useless knowledge, the bearing of pure science like zoology upon practical therapeutics, the nature of inflammation and the relation between an irritant and an irritable tissue, the radiation of sensations, the pathology of pruritus and the importance of a patient’s nails in the production of cutaneous lesions. Finally scabies is the typical example of a disease, for we know its pathology and cause, we can explain its symptoms, we can diagnose it with certainty and, although the hypothetical ‘vis medicatrix naturae’ is utterly powerless, we can cure it by definite and rational means, quickly, safely and completely.