Topical treatment of tungiasis: a randomized, controlled trial

Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2003 Oct;97(7):743-9. doi: 10.1179/000349803225002408.


Tungiasis is caused by the penetration of the female sand flea Tunga penetrans into the epidermis of its host. Human infestation with this ectoparasite is hyper-endemic in many resource-poor communities in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and South America and is associated with considerable morbidity. Currently, there is no effective drug available to treat tungiasis (or at least none for which a parasiticidal effect has been clearly demonstrated). In an attempt to fill this gap, the effects of treatment with topical ivermectin (lotion), thiabendazole (ointment and lotion), metrifonate (lotion) or placebo lotion were compared in a randomized trial. A total of 108 subjects with 169 tungiasis-infested feet participated in the study. The results show that topical ivermectin, metrifonate or thiabendazole can each significantly reduce the number of lesions caused by embedded sand fleas. Further studies are needed to optimise the doses and administration of these compounds.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antiparasitic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / drug therapy*
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Ivermectin / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ointments
  • Siphonaptera*
  • Thiabendazole / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trichlorfon / administration & dosage*


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Ointments
  • Ivermectin
  • Trichlorfon
  • Thiabendazole