Open Access Research article

The prevalence of common skin infections in four districts in Timor-Leste: a cross sectional survey

Milena ML dos Santos1, Salvador Amaral2, Sonia P Harmen3*, Hayley M Joseph3, Jose L Fernandes1 and Megan L Counahan2

Author Affiliations

1 Communicable Diseases Centre, Ministry of Health, Caicoli, Democratic Republic of Timor Leste

2 World Health Organization, Caicoli, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

3 School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:61  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-61

Published: 10 March 2010



Skin infections are a common public health problem in developing countries; however, they are rarely managed using a population based approach. Recent data on the burden of skin infections in Timor-Leste are limited. Our survey appears to be the only widespread survey conducted in more than 30 years and was designed to determine the baseline prevalence of some common skin infections in Timor-Leste.


We conducted a cross sectional survey in 14 sites including community health clinics, schools and hospitals within four different geographical regions. Participants were examined for five conditions (scabies, pyoderma, fungal infections, leprosy and yaws) by a multidisciplinary team. Analyses were conducted using EpiInfo version 6.04d.


We examined the skin of 1535 participants aged between four months and 97 years. The majority of participants were male, aged between 11 and 20 years and had at least one condition of interest (56.0%, 56.0%, and 63.1%, respectively). Fungal infections were the most common presentation (39.0%) and males were more commonly affected than females (42.3% vs 34.0%, respectively, pvalue < 0.0001).

Among those people with more than one condition the two most common co-infections were scabies with either pyoderma or a fungal infection (38.0% and 32.0%, respectively). The survey identified 29 previously undiagnosed cases of leprosy and six cases of yaws.


Our findings indicate the need for a comprehensive programme to address these conditions. There are successful disease control programmes in place within the country and it is hoped a healthy skin programme could be integrated into an established disease control programme in order to maximise health benefits and resources.