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Tungiasis (sand flea disease) is a neglected tropical disease caused by penetration of female sand fleas, Tunga penetrans, into a person’s skin usually in their feet. The disease inflicts immense pain and suffering on millions of people, particularly children. The condition is most prevalent in Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, there is no standard drug treatment for tungiasis. The available treatment options are fairly limited and unrealistic to use in endemic areas; as a result, in desperation, the affected people do more harm to themselves by extracting the fleas with non-sterile instruments, further exposing themselves to secondary bacterial infections and/or transmission of diseases such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, or HIV. This highlights the urgent need for simpler, safer, and effective treatment options for tungiasis. Tea tree oil (TTO) has long been used as an antiseptic with extensive safety and efficacy data. The evidence on parasiticidal properties of TTO against ectoparasites such as head lice, mites, and fleas is also compelling. The purpose of this review is to discuss the current tungiasis treatment challenges in endemic settings and highlight the potential role of TTO in the treatment of tungiasis.
Authors’ addresses: Solomon Abrha, Wubshet Tesfaye, and Jackson Thomas, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Bruce, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, E-mails: email@example.com@canberra.edu.au, and firstname.lastname@example.org.