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Human scabies, caused by skin infestation with the arthropod mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, typically results in a papular, intensely pruritic eruption involving the interdigital spaces, and flexure creases. Recent research has led to a reassessment of the morbidity attributable to this parasite in endemic communities, particularly resulting from secondary skin sepsis and postinfective complications including glomerulonephritis. This has led to studies of the benefits of community based control programmes, and to concerns regarding the emergence of drug resistance when such strategies are employed. The renewed research interest into the biology of this infection has resulted in the application of molecular tools. This has established that canine and human scabies populations are genetically distinct, a finding with major implications for the formulation of public health control policies. Further research is needed to increase understanding of drug resistance, and to identify new drug targets and potential vaccine candidates.