DOI: 10.1111/jdv.19288 ISSN: 0926-9959

Detection of a knockdown mutation in the voltage‐sensitive sodium channel associated with permethrin tolerance in Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis mites

K. Riebenbauer, K. Purkhauser, J. Walochnik, N. Urban, P. B. Weber, T. Stamm, A. Handisurya
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Dermatology



Increasing evidence has sparked a debate on the loss of sensitivity of scabies mites to conventional permethrin therapy. Mutations in the voltage‐sensitive sodium channels (VSSC) were associated with knockdown resistance (kdr) in many arthropods, but have never been identified in Sarcoptes scabiei variatio (var.) hominis mites.


To identify factors contributing to therapy failure.


Sixty‐seven mites were collected from 64 scabies‐infested patients in Vienna, Austria, of whom 85.9% were refractory to prior permethrin‐based treatments, and genotyped for the presence of nucleotide polymorphisms in Domain II of the VSSC, known to be associated with kdr. Information regarding previous antiscabietic therapies, decontamination procedures and possible re‐infestations by contacts as well as the response to re‐imposed therapies were obtained.


Sequence alignment comparisons revealed previously unidentified mutations in the coding region of Domain II of the VSSC. A novel A1663T transversion was detected in 97.0% of the mites, resulting in a non‐synonymous substitution from methionine to leucine, M918L, a mutation known to confer kdr in other arthropods. In addition, a synonymous G1659A transition was identified in one mite, which otherwise showed a nucleotide sequence identical to the wild‐type reference. No major inconsistencies were observed within the previous therapeutic and decontamination procedures, which could have accounted for the observed non‐responsiveness to permethrin‐based therapies. Subsequent cure of infestation was achieved in 65.6% of the participants, predominantly by combination therapies with topical permethrin and systemic ivermectin. However, in 14.6% of the cured cases, permethrin monotherapy sufficed for eradication of scabies, albeit in some cases prolonged exposure was necessary.


The kdr‐associated M918L mutation in the VSSC gene has now emerged in S. scabiei var. hominis mites. Hence, loss of sensitivity to permethrin due to kdr‐type resistance may be more prevalent than anticipated and may be decisive for the therapy responsiveness of scabies‐infested patients.

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