The prevalence and association with health-related quality of life of tungiasis and scabies in schoolchildren in southern Ethiopia

03 Aug 2017
Walker SL , Lebas E, De Sario V, Deyasso Z, Doni SN, Marks M, Roberts CH, Lambert SM


The prevalence of skin disease in low and middle income countries is high and communicable skin diseases are a significant public health problem. Tungiasis is an ectoparasite infestation caused by the flea Tunga penetrans, which has a widespread geographical distribution. Tungiasis causes painful skin lesions and may affect activities of daily living.


We wished to determine the prevalence and impact of tungiasis and scabies in schoolchildren in southern Ethiopia.


A cross-sectional study was performed in which students were examined by dermatologists and the skin disorders recorded. Individuals with pyogenic skin infections, scabies and tungiasis were also invited to complete the Children’s Dermatology Life Quality Index.


There was a high burden of skin disease amongst this cohort with more than 40% having an ectodermal parasitic skin disease. The majority of these were due to tungiasis. Tungiasis was evident in more than a third of children and was associated with onychodystophy. There was a significant association between wearing “closed” footwear and a greater number of tungiasis lesions but not tungiasis per se. Dermatophyte infections, acne and plantar maceration secondary to occlusive footwear were also common.

Scabies and tungiasis appeared to have a significant negative effect on quality of life.


Tungiasis is highly prevalent in schoolchildren in the part of Ethiopia where the study was conducted and is associated with a deleterious effect on quality of life. The role of footwear in both preventing and possibly exacerbating cutaneous ailments in this setting requires further study.