Charles Darwin University
enews home

Pioneering skin sores research to improve health of children globally

By Lucy Barnard

Menzies PhD scholar Dr Asha Bowen Menzies PhD scholar Dr Asha Bowen

A Northern Territory-based research project investigating alternative and more practical treatments for skin sores (impetigo) is set to benefit millions of children worldwide who suffer from this infection.

The Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) paper, Short-course oral co-trimoxazole versus intramuscular benzathine benzylpenicillin for impetigo in a highly endemic region, outlines the efficacy, feasibility and benefits of a new, non-injection treatment and has recently been published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.

Worldwide, it has been estimated that 110 million children have skin sores. In Australia, eight out of every 10 children living in remote Aboriginal communities will have skin sores at least once before their first birthday.

Over a three-year period, 508 Indigenous children with skin sores (aged three months to 13 years), from communities across northern and central Australia, were randomly assigned to receive either the oral treatment or the traditional injection.

Lead author of the paper and Menzies PhD scholar, Dr Asha Bowen said the study was one of the largest clinical trials of skin-sore treatment ever conducted.

“Until recently the recommended method of treating skin sores in the NT had been by painful intramuscular injection,” Dr Bowen said.

“Previous Menzies research showed that very few children who needed treatment were actually receiving it, possibly because of the associated pain of the injection.

“In our study, five children ran away when they found out they were randomised into the injection arm of the study and 30 per cent of children had pain at the injection site 48 hours afterwards.”

The new research has shown that simple, short duration oral treatments worked just as well as the injection in resolving the skin sore infection within seven days.

“This is great news for children desperately requiring treatment of their sores as the regimen is simple and pain-free,” Dr Bowen said.

The research has been incorporated into treatment guidelines, both as a short course treatment in the Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association Inc Guidelines and the national Therapeutic Guidelines.