Tea tree oil research finds scabies killer

Tea tree oil is being used to treat patients with severe scabies after scientists at the Menzies School of Health Research discovered that the oil kills the burrowing scabies mite.

Scabies sores affect up to half the people in remote Aboriginal communities across Australia's north and they can lead to life threatening illnesses such as rheumatic heart disease.

Scientists have been worried because the scabies mite has become increasingly resistant to existing skin cream treatments.

Dr Deborah Holt, from the Menzies' scabies laboratory, says researchers are confident tea tree oil can help solve the problem.

"Tea tree oil has got well known bactericidal properties so we just thought we'd give it a try," she said.

"It's been tried on lots of organisms and we thought we'd try it on the scabies mite and luckily it's very effective."