Treatment of scabies using 8% and 10% topical sulfur ointment in different regimens of application

J Drugs Dermatol. 2012 Mar;11(3):357-64.


Background: Many therapeutic modalities for scabies were available, topical sulfur ointment is a cost-effective and safe therapeutic agent. It is often applied for the whole body for three successive days.

Objective: To evaluate their therapeutic regimen of 8% and 10% topical precipitated sulfur in petrolatum ointment for single day, three successive nights or three successive days in management of scabies.

Patients and methods: This single-blinded, comparative study was conducted in the Department of Dermatology-Baghdad Teaching Hospital from April 2008 through October 2009. A total of 97 patients with scabies were enrolled in this study. The diagnosis was established on clinical basis. The patients treated with 8% and 10% topical sulfur in petrolatum ointment were divided randomly into three groups: Group A: 33 patients treated for single day (24 hours); Group B: 32 patients treated for three successive nights (from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and bathing every day); and Group C: 32 patients treated for three successive days (bathing every 24 hours). The patients were seen regularly every two weeks for the duration of four weeks.

Results: Study included 58 (59.8%) males and 39 (40.2%) females, with a male to female ratio 1.4:1. The age range of males at presentation from 3 to 64 (26.74±15.98) years, while the females age ranged at presentation from 3 to 60 (24.05±14.53) years of age. At the end of the study, the response to treatment was: Group A, response in 14 (42.4%) patients and no response in 19 (57.6%); Group B, response in 29 (90.6%) patients and no response in 3 (9.4%); and Group C, response in 31 (96.9%) patients and no response in 1 (3.1%). There is significant statistical difference among the response of 3 groups with (P=0.00000011), but no statistically significant difference between the response of Group C and Group B, (P=0.6055). Mild burning sensation and irritating (sulfur) dermatitis were the only side effects of 8% and 10% sulfur. Pruritic rash occurred in Group C mainly, in 11 (34.4%) patients, 8 (25%) in Group B and 4 (12.1%) in Group A, with no significance (P=0.1058). Recurrence or relapse occurred in Group A mainly, with 4 (12.1%) patients, and in Group B, 1 patient, (3.1%), with no recurrence in group C, with significance (P=0.0060).

Conclusion: Three successive days and three successive nights of 8% and 10% sulfur ointment were effective regimens with no statistical difference in favor of three successive days, while single-day application was much less effective but with fewer side effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antiparasitic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antiparasitic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiparasitic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ointments
  • Recurrence
  • Scabies / drug therapy*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sulfur / administration & dosage
  • Sulfur / adverse effects
  • Sulfur / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Ointments
  • Sulfur