A regional initiative to reduce skin infections amongst Aboriginal children living in remote communities of the Northern Territory, Australia

Ross Andrews, Therese Kearns, C CONNORS, C PARKER, K Carville, Bart Currie, Jonathan Carapetis

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    Background: Linked to extreme rates of chronic heart and kidney disease, pyoderma is endemic amongst Aboriginal children in Australia's Northern Territory (NT). Many of those with pyoderma will also have scabies. We report the results of a community-based collaboration within the East Arnhem Region, which aimed to reduce the prevalence of both skin infections in Aboriginal children. Methodology/Principal Findings: Commencing September 2004, we conducted an ecological study that included active surveillance for skin infections amongst children aged <15 years in five remote East Arnhem communities over a three year period. Screening was undertaken by trained local community workers, usually accompanied by another project team member, using a standard data collection form. Skin infections were diagnosed clinically with the aid of a pictorial flip chart developed for the purpose. Topical 5% permethrin was provided for age-eligible children and all household contacts whenever scabies was diagnosed, whilst those with pyoderma were referred to the clinic for treatment in accordance with current guidelines. In addition, annual mass scabies treatment (5% permethrin cream) was offered to all community residents in accordance with current guidelines but was not directly observed. Pyoderma and scabies prevalence per month was determined from 6038 skin assessments conducted on 2329 children. Pyoderma prevalence dropped from 46.7% at baseline to a median of 32.4% (IQR 28.9%-41.0%) during the follow-up period - an absolute reduction of 14.7% (IQR 4.7%-16.8%). Compared to the first 18 months of observation, there was an absolute reduction in pyoderma prevalence of 18 cases per 100 children (95%CI -21.0, -16.1, p?0.001) over the last 18 months. Treatment uptake increased over the same period (absolute difference 13.4%, 95%CI 3.3, 23.6). While scabies prevalence was unchanged, the prevalence of infected scabies (that is with superimposed pyoderma) decreased from 3.7% (95%CI 2.4, 4.9) to 1.5% (95%CI 0.7, 2.2), a relative reduction of 59%. Conclusion: Although pyoderma prevalence remained unacceptably high, there was a substantial reduction overall with improvements in treatment uptake a critical factor. More acceptable alternatives, such as cotrimoxazole for pyoderma and ivermectin as a community-wide scabicide, warrant further investigation in these settings. We are encouraged by progress made through this work, where local action was led by local community members and primary health care providers with external training and support. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00884728 Copyright: � 2009 Andrews et al.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e554-
    JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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