Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute World Scabies Program

The Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award supports five organisations that are addressing areas of significant social need through bold projects that promise lasting community benefit.

Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award funding will be used to establish projects in Fiji and the Solomon Islands to demonstrate that scabies can be eliminated as a public health problem at a national scale. To achieve this, medication will be supplied to treat 1.5 million people for two rounds of treatment and results will then be evaluated in each country. The funding will support the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and its partners to help establish a global strategy for scabies elimination, developing internationally endorsed protocols and training for community-based treatment.

200 million+

People worldwide are affected by scabies1

1.5 million

People expected to receive treatment from this funding1

90% reduction

Expected in the prevalence of scabies with a single round of medicine1

Sarah Teddy, headmistress at Kukum SDA School in the Solomon Islands, talks about the challenges children with scabies face at school in the above video in English, or in her native language, Pidgin, on YouTube.

According to data gathered by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and its partners, scabies affects approximately 200 million people at any one time, with about 450 million new cases every year.1 The condition can lead to severe skin infections and other fatal diseases, impacting the economic and social growth of communities globally.

For children like Addisu, who developed scabies soon after starting school in Ethiopia, it’s a debilitating condition that can make it impossible to write and sit during lessons and eventually forces them to leave school. Fortunately, Addisu received treatment which cured his scabies and he was able to resume his education within a year.

This story alone shows the life-changing impact treatment can have.

The Institute and its partners are using a medication called Ivermectin to address this disease. Providing a single round of the drug in a community can reduce the prevalence of scabies from 30 per cent to under 2 per cent within 12 months.1 Work is now taking place to develop a global strategy for scabies control.

Project updates

In FY2024, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s World Scabies Program (WSP) completed its mass drug administration (MDA) program to treat scabies in Fiji and undertook surveys to assess the reduction in both scabies' prevalence and severity.

In the Solomon Islands, WSP commenced its second round of MDA and continued providing close support to the Neglected Tropical Disease Unit at the Ministry of Health. WSP has also completed scabies prevalence surveys in Kiribati and French Polynesia and engaged with other countries seeking guidance on scabies control.

In FY2023, the World Scabies Program rolled out a mass drug administration program, helping to protect millions of people across Fiji and the Solomon Islands from scabies.

The first round of mass drug administration in the Solomon Islands and Fiji was completed on 1 July 2023.

In FY2022, research released by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s World Scabies Program in collaboration with the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, noted one dose of the anti-parasite drug Ivermectin is just as effective as two doses at significantly reducing the spread of scabies.1 This study paves the way for a more cost effective and efficient one-dose strategy for scabies control in countries where the disease is endemic, such as Fiji and the Solomon Islands where the Macquarie Group Foundation’s funding is helping to significantly reduce the incidence of scabies and prevent further disease.

In FY2021, the World Scabies Program, working to eliminate scabies in Fiji and the Solomon Islands, continued its preparations to roll out a community-level, mass drug administration of Ivermectin to protect people against scabies and its associated economic and health problems. 

Vision for the future

The World Scabies Program is working with governments and partners to eliminate scabies as a public health problem. This program aims to put scabies control on national and global agendas, implement community wide treatment strategies, and strengthen health systems to monitor and manage scabies.

Scabies is a disease of poverty. It’s a miserable disease that affects children more than any other group, with its transmission exacerbated by overcrowding and poor living circumstances.”

Professor Andrew Steer
Director, Infection and Immunity Theme, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

  1. Data points on this page were provided by the World Scabies Program as at August 2023.