Malathion vs Permethrin for Scabies: Know the Differences

Malathion vs Permethrin for Scabies

Difference between Malathion vs Permethrin for Scabies: Scabies can be treated with either Malathion or Permethrin (Bass and Richards 33). However, despite the similarity in their efficacy, these treatments have different chemical compositions and methods of application. Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that disrupts sodium channels in the nervous system of insects while Malathion is an organophosphate insecticide which inhibits acetylcholinesterase. Both treatments are generally safe if used as directed, although some people may experience allergic reactions or skin irritation. Nevertheless, resistance may develop to either drug with time, but Permethrin shows more frequent association with resistance (Bass and Richards 34).

Difference between Malathion and Permethrin for Scabies

Malathion is an organophosphate insecticide that messes up Scabies’ central nervous system resulting in paralysis hence leading to death of a person when severe. It so happens that this synthetic pyrethroid pesticide works against mite nerves thereby causing perpetual excitement followed by paralysis (Bass and Richards 38).The table below provides the differences between Malathion and Permethrin for Scabies.




Active Ingredient

Malathion, an organophosphate

Permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid


Requires application by a healthcare professional or trained personnel

Typically applied topically by the patient or caregiver

Treatment Duration

Usually requires one or two applications with a week's interval

Typically applied once, with a repeat application after 7-14 days if necessary


Resistance less common, but potential for development exists

Reports of resistance emerging in some areas


May cause skin irritation and other adverse effects, particularly in sensitive individuals

Generally well-tolerated, but rare cases of skin irritation reported

Age Restrictions

Generally safe for use in adults and children, with precautions

Generally safe for use in adults and children over 2 months old


Can be more expensive, especially if administered by healthcare professionals

Often more affordable and accessible

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What is Malathion?

Malathion is an organophosphate pesticide that is widely used in agricultural, public health, and household pest management.. It is a broad-spectrum pesticide because of its ability to work against a variety of insects. Malathion functions by preventing the activity of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for the healthy operation of the nervous system of insects. Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, builds up as a result of paralysing and eventually killing the insects.

Features of Malathion

  • Broad-Spectrum Activity: Aphids, mites, leafhoppers, flies, mosquitoes, and flies are just a few of the insects that Malathion effectively kills.
  • Interaction and Consumption Toxicity: Its administration methods are varied as it can be absorbed through the insect's cuticle by touch or taken orally.
  • Fast Action: When Malathion comes into contact with insects, it starts to work fast, paralysing and eventually killing the insect.
  • Residual Activity: Malathion can continue to control insects for a while after application, depending on the formulation and technique used.
  • Low Mammalian Toxicity: Although Malathion is harmful to insects when used as directed on the label, it is less dangerous to mammals, including humans.

What are Permethrin Scabies?

Permethrin is a medicine that treats Scabies, an infectious skin condition caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. A rash that resembles pimples and causes severe itching are the main symptoms of Scabies. Permethrin is a member of the pyrethrin medication class, which consists of insecticides that paralyse and kill mites and their eggs. Applying Permethrin topically to the entire body, right from the neck, in the form of a cream or lotion, and then leaving it on for 8 to 14 hours before washing it off. It's crucial to follow the instructions on the drug label or by your healthcare professional. 

Features of Permethrin Scabies

  • Parasiticidal Action: Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid that acts as a neurotoxin on Scabies mites. Their nervous system is upset, which results in paralysis and finally death.
  • Effectiveness: Permethrin has a high level of effectiveness against adult and egg Scabies mites. When administered according to directions, it has demonstrated a high cure rate.
  • Topical Application: A cream or lotion containing Permethrin is applied topically on the skin. By applying locally, it is possible to directly target the mites on the skin's surface.
  • Low Systemic Absorption: When administered topically, Permethrin absorbs very little into the bloodstream, lowering the possibility of systemic side effects. 

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Similarities between Malathion and Permethrin Scabies

  • Mode of Action: Permethrin and Malathion are both insecticides that are classified as pyrethroids (Permethrin) and organophosphates (Malathion). They cause paralysis and eventually death by interfering with insects' and mites' neurological systems.
  • Topical Application: Creams, lotions, or solutions containing Malathion or Permethrin are applied topically to the skin. This makes it possible to treat the afflicted areas locally and specifically to kill the Scabies mites.
  • Treatment Duration: Malathion and Permethrin typically have similar treatment durations, that is the medication that is left on the skin for a set amount of time before being washed off is the same. This gives the insecticide enough time to affect the mites and their eggs. 

In conclusion, several factors influence the decision between Malathion and Permethrin, including personal preferences, possible side effects, and the existence of contraindications. Both treatments are effective for Scabies. To ensure the efficiency of the treatment it is important to follow the advice given by the medical workers.

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Which is more frequently used, Permethrin or Malathion?

Permethrin is more widely used for Scabies treatment than Malathion. It is frequently suggested as the first-line treatment due to its efficacy and safety profile.

Are there any variations in the way that Permethrin and Malathion are applied?

Both Malathion and Permethrin are used topically on the skin. The application technique may differ slightly based on the exact product instructions provided by healthcare professionals.

How long does it take for Malathion and Permethrin to act on Scabies?

Both Malathion and Permethrin often start to work within a few days of application.

Can Malathion and Permethrin be used on children and pregnant women?

Malathion and Permethrin should not be used in children or pregnant women without consulting a healthcare expert. Permethrin is generally better than Malathion.

Are there any side effects associated with Malathion and Permethrin treatment for Scabies?

Malathion and Permethrin both have the potential to produce skin irritation, redness, or itching where they are applied.