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Mites

Category: Illness or disabilities

Type

Involuntary

Introduction and description

 

Mites belong to the order Anthropoda: Chelicerata: Arachnida: Acarina.  The order Acarina includes mites and ticks. However, we have separated out the ticks from the following description.  Ticks are known carriers of a number of very serious diseases.  But then so are some mites.  Lice too are a separate species.  Members of the order Acarina differ from other arachnids in that the body is not segmented, and the cephalothorax and abdomen are combined into one body region. Larval mites have three pairs of legs, whereas nymphs and adults have four pairs.

Mites are among the most diverse and successful of all the invertebrate groups. There are an estimated 0.5-1 million mite species on earth. They have exploited an incredible array of habitats, -  ranging from deserts to rain forests, mountain tops to tundra and saltwater ocean floors to freshwater lakes - and because of their small size (most are microscopic), go largely unnoticed.

Many live freely in the soil or water, but there are also a large number of species that live as parasites on plants, animals, and some that feed on mould/fungi.  Insects may also be infested by parasitic mites. Examples are Varroa destructor, which attaches to the body of the honey bee, and Acarapis woodi (family Tarsonemidae), which lives in the tracheae of honey bees. Mites also parasitize some ant species, such as Eciton burchellii.

In their own way they are as important as bacteria as ‘decomposing’ organisms.  They eat a wide variety of material including living and dead plant and fungal material, lichens and carrion; some are even predatory.  If we ignore their pathogenic nature, they are a source of great wonder.  The tropical species Archegozetes longisetosus, for example, is one of the strongest animals in the world, relative to its mass (100 μg): It can lift up to 1,182 times its own weight, over five times more than would be expected of such a minute animal. Mites also hold the record speed; for its length, Paratarsotomus macropalpis is the fastest animal on Earth.

Mites as pathogens

cheese mite

Among the many mites that are known to affect humans and animals, only a subset are parasitic but these can cause significant disease.  The field of mite genomics has recently emerged and is predicted to expand - a particular advantage when it comes to studying parasitic mites that cannot be cultured in vitro.  There appears to be some optimism that investigations of the microbiota associated with mites will elucidate the link between mites and pathogens, and define the role of the mite in transmission and pathogenesis. It is however worth bearing in mind that this area is an emerging study subject, it is admitted that much is not known.

From the biological standpoint, a mite takes about 30 days to develop from an egg to become an adult and can live, on average, about 4 months.  They like it to be warm [ideal temperature around 28 degrees C and they also like it humid [ideal humidity 80%].  A female produces about 50 to 80 eggs during her life.

In many descriptions one reads that mites are ectoparasites – but this is not quite correct.  Parasites that live on the outside of the host, either on the skin or the outgrowths of the skin, are called ectoparasites and many mites are indeed ectoparasites.

Those that live inside the host are called endoparasites. Endoparasites can exist in one of two forms: intercellular parasites (inhabiting spaces in the host's body) or intracellular parasites (inhabiting cells in the host's body). Intracellular parasites, such as protozoa, bacteria or viruses, tend to rely on a third organism, which is generally known as the carrier or vector and it appears that mites can be that vector.  In other words we may be severely underestimating the ability of mites to transmit disease.

Disease from faeces

 

The faeces of mites attract both bacteria and fungi which are pathogenic to humans and other animals.  The Demodex family, for example, likes to feed on sebum, it increases in numbers to match the increase in the sebum.  The skin irritation, however, is caused by the bacteria its faeces attracts.  So we have a colony of parasites feeding on our excess sebum, pooing liberally as a consequence, and all the poo being munched voraciously by Bacillus oleronius.  What is perhaps of added interest is that our good bacteria, notably Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) do a sterling job at attempting to fight the bad bacteria.  By using anti-biotics, for example, or anti-histamines, we may actually kill off or prevent the one thing that is helping us and prolong the agony.

Mites as carriers of disease

 

Many mites carry the spores of bacteria and fungi on their tiny bodies.  Aspergillus spp and Penicillium spp have been found in mites and the presence of Aspergillus flavus appears to help some mites in a symbiotic relationship.  The mite helps disperse the spores of the fungi in corn.

Mites also carry ‘Endosymbiotic bacteria’ that potentially influence reproduction and other fitness-related traits of their hosts.  For example:

We screened 20 strains of 12 agriculturally relevant herbivorous and predatory mite species for infection with Wolbachia, Cardinium and Spiroplasma by the use of PCR. The majority of specimens originated from Austria and were field collected or mass-reared. Eight out of 20 strains (40%) tested, representing seven of 12 mite species (58%), carried at least one of the three bacteria. We found Wolbachia in the herbivorous spider mites Tetranychus urticae and Bryobia rubrioculus, with the former also carrying Spiroplasma and the latter also carrying Cardinium. Cardinium was furthermore found in two populations of the predatory mite Euseius finlandicus and the spider mite Eotetranychus uncatus. Spiroplasma was detected in the predatory mite Neoseiulus californicus. PMID:  17554631

 

All this leads one to suspect that although mites undoubtedly bite humans and burrow into their skin, the serious problems of infection are caused by what they carry and encourage via their faeces in the way of viruses, bacteria and fungi, that does the real damage in humans.  The word ‘allergy’ in this case seems to be way off the mark, people are not suffering from an allergy they are suffering from an infection from the pathogens carried by these little creatures.

Jane Ishka

In most cities it is illegal to keep chickens in, or even near, a human habitation. With good reason:  Chickens can carry a variety of ectoparasites, from bedbugs to several kinds of parasitic mites.  These mites are so tiny that to try to see one is like trying to see a piece of cellophane tape the size of the point of a pin.
By Halloween the house was so infested that I had to move out.  Eliminating these parasites took huge amounts of time, energy and money.  We received conflicting advice from many professionals and the stress on our family was enormous.  All this even though, as a biologist, I had the advantage of being able to read scientific journals from all over the world on those long, mite-bitten nights.

Symptoms

Skin diseases and itching

 

Mites can cause contact dermatitis, and skin lesions.  Mites which colonize human skin are the cause of several types of itchy skin rashes, such as grain itch, grocer's itch, and scabies.

The itching is actually a side effect of the immunological response to attack.  The blood vessels dilate and histamine is used to ensure the site of attack is kept accessible by the troops of the immune system sent to fight the invader – be it the mite itself or the bacteria and other pathogens it carries. In swelling the area, the small nerves near the skin can be irritated, or stimulated.  If we could withstand the itching it is actually a good sign that the body is fighting back.

Food poisoning

When mites get in our stored food, - grain, rice, spices and so on, they eat the stored food and of course then defecate and urinate on what is left.  Thus infestations of mites in food can poison us with the bacteria and fungi they deposit on the food or which is attracted to their faeces.   
The bacteria, viruses and fungi attracted to mite faeces is capable of causing acute enteritis, diarrhoea, and urinary tract infections.

Nutritional deprivation

 

Infestations of mites in food not only decreases the amount of food left for us, but they can also affect its nutritional composition.  Mites cause a loss of nutritional value because they prefer the germ of the grain, and they particularly deplete the B vitamins and iron.  In wheat, for example, when a large infestation by mites occurs, they attack the endosperm and germ of the grain and by feeding on the starch reduce the weight of the grain and its viability as a seed, in other words it won’t germinate. 

Asthma and allergies

Inhalation or contact with mites via the by-products of their metabolism, can cause asthma, allergic rhinitis, and may even result in anaphylaxis.  A study by Hubert et al suggested that allergies are mostly caused by the faeces and faecal particles and thus the bacteria and fungi the particles attract, but given the number of viruses, bacteria and fungi living on mites, it may be that the faecal route is not the only one.  In essence therefore ‘allergies’ are actually pathogen attacks – the body reacting to the pathogens entering the body, and the immune system response is entirely appropriate.

Lung diseases

 

In addition to the asthma mentioned above, COPD can also be caused by mites in the same way it causes asthma – by inhalation of the pathogens attracted by the faeces.  Again this appears to be more correctly a pathogen attack via the bacteria and fungi attracted to the faeces rather than a direct reaction to the mite.  In one study of people with COPD the prevalence of sensitivity to mites was nearly 50% of the people tested.

But in addition to the pathogens the mites carry and transmit, it appears that mites can also colonise the lung

… human acariasis, [is caused when] mites invade and parasitize the human body in various tissues from the gastrointestinal tract to the lung. Here, we summarize the reported cases of human acariasis of pulmonary, intestinal, oral (anaphylaxis), urinary, otic, and vaginal systems. Because the clinical symptoms of acariasis often overlap with other disease symptoms leading to frequent misdiagnosis, we highlight the need for more attention on these infections. PMID:  25175486

Eye diseases

Contact with the by-products of metabolism of the mites can cause conjunctivitis and blepharitis.  Blepharitis is characterised by chronic inflammation of the eyelid. 

The aim of our study was to report epidemiological and clinical particularities of cases of demodicidosis diagnosed in our region. Over a period of nine years (January 2000 to December 2008), 427 cases of demodicidosis were diagnosed. 73.2% of cases were blepharitis and 26.8% of cases were facial dermatosis. The mean age was 44 years. Women were slightly more affected (56%) than men. Among 787 chronic blepharitis, 243 cases were due to Demodex sp (30.9%).  PMID:  20596809

Ear diseases

 

Most of the reports of mite problems describe the external symptoms of infestation of the ear by mites, but research also seems to indicate that mites may be responsible, - in those with a perforated ear drum, for example, or immunocompromised, or with inadequate wax protection in their ears, - for a host of ear complaints such as Meuniere’s disease, tinnitus and even deafness.

Bladder, urinary tract and gastrointestinal diseases

Acariasis is the name given to an infestation with mites and there are pathogenic mite species capable of causing intestinal and urinary acariasis.

Among the 1994 individuals examined, …a  total number of 161 (8.07 %) individuals were shown to carry mites, with 92 (4.61 %) positive only for stool samples, 37 (1.86 %) positive only for urine samples and 32 (1.60 %) for both. The positive rate of mites in stool samples was 6.22 %.....   The mites from stool samples included Acarus siro, TyroPhagus putrescentiae, Dermatophagoides farinae, D. pteronyssinus, Glycyphagus domesticus, G. ornatus, Carpoglyphus lactis and Tarsonemus granaries. The positive rate of mites in urine samples was 3.46 % (69/1994). …. Mites species in urine samples included Acarus siro, Tyrophagus putrescentiae, T. longior, Aleuroglyphus ovatus, Caloglyphus berlesei, C. mycophagus, Suidasia nesbitti, Lardoglyphus konoi, Glycyphagus domesticus, Carpoglyphus lactis, Lepidoglyphus destructor, Dermatophagoides farinae, D. pteronyssinus, Euroglyphus magnei, Caloglyphus hughesi, Tarsonemus granarus and T. hominis.

A significant difference was found among the frequencies of mite infection in individuals with different occupations .. with its frequencies in those working in medicinal herb storehouses, those in rice storehouse or mills, miners, railway workers, pupils and teachers being 15.89 % (68/428), 12.96 % (53/409), 3.28 % (18/549), 2.54 % (6/236), 5.10 % (13/255) and 2.56 % (3/117), respectively.  PMID:  12679953

Vaginal infection

 

Mites have been found infesting the vagina and may be implicated in introducing the viruses and bacteria that cause various reproductive system diseases [references: Acarina in Pap smear- Lefer LG, Rosier RP.  Acta Cytol. 1978 Sep-Oct;22(5):285. PMID: 281832 and  Detection of parasitic arthropoda in the vaginal secretion - Dyner E, Koperska K, Wieszczycki W. Ginekol Pol. 1972 May;43(5):615-8. Polish.  PMID: 5030373]

Other Viral, fungal  and bacterial diseases

Numerous bacterial, fungal and viral diseases may be caused by the pathogens these mites harbour or encourage.  For example, Hantaan virus (HTNV) is an enveloped, single-stranded, negative-sense RNA virus species of Old World Hantavirus. It is the causative agent of Korean Hemorrhagic Fever in humans.  Initial symptoms begin suddenly and include intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision. Individuals may have flushing of the face, inflammation or redness of the eyes, or a rash. Later symptoms can include low blood pressure, acute shock, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure, which can cause severe fluid overload.  And mites are the carriers of the virus.

The available data, much of it from recent studies in China, indicate that both trombiculid and gamasid mites are naturally infected with Hantaan virus and that infected mites can transmit the virus by bite to laboratory mice and transovarially (vertically) through eggs to their offspring. Collectively, these findings challenge the current paradigm of hantavirus transmission, namely, that rodents serve as the reservoir of human pathogenic hantaviruses in nature and that humans are infected with these viruses by inhalation of aerosols of infectious rodent excreta. PMID: 24958909

And

Bacterial and viral pathogens ‘associated’ with Dermanyssus gallinae : Table based on information originally published by Valiente Moro et al. and updated with data from Chu et al.

 

Pathogen

Association

Bacteria

Salmonella gallinarum

Isolated from mites

Pasteurella multocida

Transmission demonstrated

Erysipelthrix rhusiopathiae

Isolated from mites

Listeria monocytogenes

Isolated from mites

Coxiella burnetii

Transmission demonstrated

Nocardia brasiliensis

Isolated from mites

Mycoplasma synoviae

Isolated from mites

Viruses

Newcastle disease

Isolated from mites

Fowlpox virus

Transmission demonstrated

St. Louis encephalitis

Isolated from mites

Tick bourne encephalitis

Isolated from mites

Eastern equine encephalitis

Transmission demonstrated

Western equine encephalitis

Transmission demonstrated

Venezualan equine encephalitis

Transmission demonstrated

 

……. It has been experimentally shown that D. gallinae could act as a biological vector of S. enteritidis and natural carriage of these bacteria by the mite on poultry premises has also been reported. It was also found that D. gallinae carried other pathogens such as E. coli, Shigella sp., and Staphylococcus, thus increasing the list of pathogenic agents potentially transmitted by the mite. PMID: 19205905

In other words, mites may be a major source of very serious diseases and it is not the mite per se, but the bacteria, virus or fungi it harbours that is the true cause of the illness.  This is made more serious given that mites are a growing problem, and if climate change/global warming continues, may well increase even more, as mites like warm conditions and high humidity.  Given that these little creatures not only attack us directly causing lung problems and disease and illness, but also contaminate our food and render it sterile, they represent a great threat to us, even though they are very small.

Increased travel and trade, coupled with present and expected impacts of climate change, can be expected to facilitate host-expansion events further in many species, increasing encounter rates with novel hosts and potentially favouring parasite virulence. Increasing densities of humans and associated livestock/companion animals may [increase] host expansion events, increased host occurrence logically favours rising encounter rates with novel parasites.  DOI: 10.1186/s13071-015-0768-7

Cause – the different types of pathogenic mite

House dust mites

House dust mites feed on dead human tissue, animal dander, fungi, bacteria and the pollen of plants.  The little creature has powerful digestive enzymes enabling it to feed on skin and keratin and ‘low host specificity’, meaning it doesn’t care whose skin it eats.

 

Carpets, curtains, upholstery, mattresses, bedding and pillows are favourite sites for the habitat of these mites.  The main species of house dust mites are Dermatophagoides farinae, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, Euroglyphus maynei and Blomia tropicalis.  Dermatophagoides farinae is more common in America, whilst Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is more common in Europe. Blomia tropicalis was once classified as a storage mite, but is now being recognised as a house dust mite too, being found [as its name suggests] in both tropical and subtropical countries such as Spain, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

As with most mites, it is not the mite itself that is the problem but its faeces and the bacteria and other pathogens it attracts.

Stored product mites

can be found in grains, such as wheat, corn, oats, barley, rice  and their by-products, animal food, and in other seeds such as spices.  They also like beans [a bean being a seed] and especially soybeans.  They have even been found in dried sausages, processed dried meat, dried fish, dried fruit, cheese, breakfast cereals, mixtures for use in baked products and chocolate powder – processed foods in other words.  Mites of stored products have a preference for products containing starch, in fungi they are attracted to those containing glycogen – which is the compound of storage of carbohydrates in these organisms.  The mites use enzymes to turn the starches into glucose

 

Most of the mites of stored products belong to the suborder Astigmata.  Examples include Acarus siro L., Chortoglyphus arcuatus, Tyrophagus putrescentiae, Glycophagus domesticus, Aleuroglyphus ovatus, Suidasia medanensis, Thyreophagus entomophagus, Suidasia pontifica, Blomia kulagini, Glycycometus malaysiensis, and  Lepidoglyphus destructor.

Mites in food are extraordinarily well adapted to famine.  When the nutritional value of the food has gone down, the mite does not die, but goes into a state of ‘hypopus’, which is a sort of hibernation status.  In this stage the mite is highly resistant to unfavourable conditions, insecticides and fumigation, and may exist for several months without feeding.

hypopi hitching a ride on an Athiasiella

The hypopus is transported from place to place by clinging to small animal forms such as insects or mice. When it encounters favourable conditions it sheds its skin and resumes normal growth and development. The peculiar adaptation through the hypopus stage makes control very difficult.

Although most of the illnesses caused by these mites tend to be related to food poisoning, grain mites are reported to have been the cause of dermatitis in humans, known under various names as "grocers' itch," "vanillism" (from infestations on vanilla beans), and "copra itch."

There are even cases of supermarket employees getting hives and dermatitis through pork meat [especially ham], infested by Tryophagus putrescentiae.  This mite likes food with a high protein and lipid content, as such it favours processed cheeses, bacon, egg powder and for example peanut flour.  This mite has become a real problem in Spain as it has developed a taste for Spanish cured ham.  A study by Johnston and Bruce found Tyrophagus neiswander infesting Cabrales cheese.

Straw itch mite

mite rash from Pyemotes ventricosis

The Straw itch mite (Pyemotes ventricosis ) normally lives on other arthropods. Common hosts are the larvae of several insects, including the wheat jointworm; the wheat strawworm; the Angoumois grain moth; the rice, granary, bean and pea weevils; and the pink bollworm. People engaged in threshing straw or handling grains or other material infested with the insect hosts often are overrun by these mites.  Homes with beetle-infested beans or cereals in cupboards often have problems with this mite.  

It reproduces rapidly and in enormous numbers. This mite has an unusual development in which the eggs hatch and the young are matured within the body of the female. They are released as sexually mature adults. It is reported that a single female may give birth to more than 200 adult mites and that in one week the females of this brood will have produced another brood in the same manner.

Pyemotes tritici

Pyemotes causes severe bite reactions.  Their bites produce a rashlike dermatitis that may cover large areas of the body. The rash appears about 12 hours after the attack and is accompanied by severe itching. The attack is often so intense that vomiting, headache, sweating and fever follow. It may be toxin related:

Female mites of the species Pyemotes tritici inject an extremely potent venom into their insect prey that causes muscle-contraction and paralysis. These mites are able to paralyse insects 150,000 times their size and their venom is effective in a broad range of insect species. PMID: 1840646

 The mite Sarcoptes scabiei

 

 

Scabies is a contagious skin infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Crusted scabies is a more severe form of the disease.  It typically only occurs in those with a poor immune system or those on immunosuppressants.  Scabies is one of the three most common skin disorders in children. As of 2010 it affected approximately 100 million people (1.5% of the world population) and is equally common in both sexes. The young and the old are more commonly affected. It also occurs more commonly in the developing world and tropical climates.   Scabies appears to be on the increase.  Several sources suggest an escalation of scabies in France, for example.  We have a separate entry for scabies with more details and suggested healing observations

Demodex mites

Demodex is a genus of tiny parasitic mites that live in or near hair follicles of mammals.  Around 65 species of Demodex are known. Two species living on humans have been identified: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Different species of animals host different species of Demodex. Demodex canis lives on the domestic dog.

 

Hair follicle mites of the genus Demodex , in the family Demodicidae , are among the smallest multicellular animals. Demodex folliculorum measures 0.3 to 0.4 mm in length and typically occupies hair follicles. It is also called an "eyelash mite" because it commonly occurs in follicles at the base of eyelashes. They – or at least their faeces and the bacteria attracted to it is the cause of Acne and a host of other skin problems.

In many skin diseases such as Demodex folliculitis, rosacea- or steroid-induced rosacea Demodex mites are present in abundance and are at least partially held responsible for causing these disorders. PMID: 19652990

Demodex brevis is about half that size (0.15 to 0.2 mm) and typically lives in sebaceous glands adjacent to hair follicles. The latter mite is only about the size of a unicellular Paramecium

A 61-year-old white man presented with a 1-week history of an asymptomatic erythematous, annular plaque with minimal scale limited to the nasal bridge. Histological examination showed a mixed infiltrate of lymphocytes and neutrophils within sebaceous glands. The clinical and histopathological presentation was consistent with a diagnosis of neutrophilic sebaceous adenitis. Several Demodex brevis mites were present deep within the affected sebaceous lobules.  PMID: 25229566

Demodex mites also attack dogs.  Demodicosis, also called demodectic mange or red mange, is caused by Demodex canis as the animal's immune system is unable to keep the mites under control.

Histiostomatidae mites

Histiostomatidae is a family of astigmatid mites in a phylogenetic tree of the Astigmata.  These mites are characterised by their very small size (about 600–900 µm in length).  They can be found in animal dung, compost, waterfilled treeholes or the fluids of Nepenthes and Sarracenia - pitcher plants.  They generally use insects to get about from one habitat to another, including beetles, flies and Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps). It was long thought that these mites did not affect humans, however, some recent case histories show that they can.

A 31-year-old Saudi man was seen at an ear, nose, and throat clinic at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with bilateral itching in the external auditory canal. On otoscopic examination, the skin lining the ear canal was thickened with whitish sheets of sloughed cells and thick discharge. Large numbers of mites of an undescribed species closely related to members of the genus Loxanoetus (Histiostomatidae) were present. ... PMID:  17488924

Bird Mite - Dermanyssus gallinae

 

Dermanyssus gallinae (also known as the red mite, poultry mite, red poultry mite, roost mite and chicken mite) is an ectoparasite once thought to be only of poultry and other bird species.  It is now recognised, however, that Dermansyssus gallinae also attacks many species of mammals, including: cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits, horses and man, causing serious dermatitis and skin lesions.

 

The mites are blood feeders and attack resting birds at night. They are generally white or greyish in colour, becoming darker or redder when engorged with blood. After feeding, they hide in cracks and crevices away from daylight, where they mate and lay eggs. The mite progresses through 5 life stages: egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph and adult. Under favourable conditions this life cycle can be completed within seven days, so populations can grow rapidly - causing anaemia in badly affected flocks of poultry. Feral and racing pigeons can harbour these mites, leading to the hypothesis that ‘pigeon fancier’s lung’ is due to them.

I became heavily infested with D. gallinae in the Fall of 2009 from baby chicks raised in the family home.  Our older house with its wood paneling and carpet turned out to be “mite heaven,” as Vector Control called it.  I was more affected than other family members, and spent many nights that winter trying to sleep in the car.
Eventually the mite population skyrocketed and we moved out of our home. Specimens from the chickens were identified as D. gallinae in all life stages by a veterinary school parasitology lab, and we had the chickens put down.

Northern fowl mite

Ornithonyssus bacoti

Northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylvarium) is very similar to the chicken mite in appearance, but it  differs in that it breeds among the feathers of the host and may complete development without leaving the host. The mite is a general parasite of birds, being found on domestic fowl, sparrows, swallows and many other avian species throughout the temperate region.  It is not necessary for this mite to stay on the host and it may be found in nests, or roost areas, and in surrounding cracks and crevices. It can survive for two or three weeks away from the host.

This mite may bite humans, causing irritation, lesions and infrequently dermatitis. Human annoyance is frequently associated with the absence of the normal host bird, leaving an infestation of mites in the nest area without a convenient source of food.

Spider mites

Spider mites are important allergens in the development of asthma in fruit-cultivating farmers.  Spider mites are outdoor mites causing significant damage to fruit and leaves throughout the world. There are many types of spider mite, the citrus red mite (Panonychus citri) , for example, has been found to be an important outdoor allergen among children living in rural areas.

A total of 7254 children (ages 7-15 years) living in rural areas were enrolled, and each subject was evaluated by a questionnaire and a skin prick test. Allergenic cross-reactivity was evaluated by ELISA inhibition tests.  RESULTS:  The most common sensitizing allergens were house dust mites, followed by citrus red mite and cockroach. High serum-specific IgE bindings to the citrus red mite were detected in 21 of 100 randomly selected subjects. The prevalence of asthma was higher among those with positive skin responses to the citrus red mite than with negative skin responses to this mite. PMID: 11359426

But the European red mite (Panonychus ulmi) and the two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae), for example, also cause respiratory dysfunction.

We performed a cross-sectional survey. ….. skin prick tests for 11 inhalant allergens common in Korea and 2 species of spider mites (European red mite and two-spotted spider mite) were performed in 725 apple-cultivating farmers in Korea. RESULTS:  Results of skin prick tests in the apple farmers indicated that European red mite (23.2%) was the most common sensitizing allergen, followed by Tyrophagus putrescentiae (21.2%), two-spotted spider mite (16.6%), Dermatophagoides farinae (16.3%), D pteronyssinus (14.4%), cockroach (13.1%), and Hop Japanese (Humulus Japonicus) pollen (12.0%). …..Among 119 farmers with work-related asthmatic symptoms, the positive skin response rates to European red mite and two-spotted spider mite were 40.4% and 27.0%, respectively. PMID: 10589014

 Tropical rat mite

 

The tropical rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti) is associated with rats throughout the U.S. and other warm climates, where it also infests humans and many other warm-blooded animals. The bite is painful, causing intense itching and a skin irritation known as rat-mite dermatitis.

Attacks on humans are almost always associated with rats in buildings, and complaints are common from areas that may be infested with rats, such as warehouses, stores, theaters and apartments. Rat control may intensify the attack on humans, but this mite will bite humans even when there is an abundance of host rats on which they can feed. The mite drops from its host after each feeding and may be found on a variety of surfaces near rat-infested areas. It can survive for several days without a blood meal.  This mite is a known transmitter of viruses, which may include Langat virus which can cause encephalitis….

One day after feeding on a viremic mouse, tropical rat mites, Ornithonyssus bacoti (Hirst), transmitted Langat virus to a naive suckling mouse in one of four trials. [however this] mite does not appear to be an efficient vector of Langat virus.  PMID: 8389878

 

And Hantavirus

[we] demonstrate the role of rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti) in the transmission of Rattus-borne hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS)….. O. bacoti may play a role as the vector of HFRS and a reservoir host as well.  PMID:  12078291

House mouse mite

House mouse mite (Liponissoides sanguineus). This mite is primarily a parasite of mice, however, it tends to leave its rodent host to wander throughout buildings and bite people. Its major importance is that it has been identified as the vector of rickettsial pox, a human disease.

Rickettsialpox

Rickettsialpox is caused by bacteria of the Rickettsia genus (Rickettsia akari).  The first symptom is a bump formed by the bite, eventually resulting in a black, crusty scab. Many of the symptoms are flu-like including fever, chills, weakness and achy muscles but the most distinctive symptom is the rash that breaks out, spanning the infected person's entire body.  It can be mistaken for chicken pox.

The Trombiculidae family of mites and chiggers

Trombiculidae are also called berry bugs, harvest mites, red bugs, scrub-itch mites and aoutas.   Trombiculidae live in forests and grasslands and are also found in the vegetation of low, damp areas such as woodlands, berry bushes, orchards, along lakes and streams, and even in drier places where vegetation is low, such as lawns, golf courses, and parks. They are most numerous in early summer when grass, weeds, and other vegetation are heaviest. They are nearly microscopic, measuring 0.4 mm (1/60 of an inch) and have a chrome-orange hue.

Eutrombicula alfreddugesi

There is no one definition of what a chigger is, except that they are the larvae of mites in the  Trombiculidae family, for example the larvae of the mite Eutrombicula alfreddugesi is also called a  chigger.

Adults overwinter in earthen cells in the soil, scavenge on decaying matter and emerge from the soil in the spring to lay their eggs. These hatch into tiny, oval, orange-coloured larvae that normally feed on snakes, turtles, rabbits, birds and other wildlife. These larvae, barely visible to the naked eye, are very active. When humans come in contact with infested vegetation, the larvae swarm over the entire body and it might be several hours before they settle down to feed. Their attack seems to be concentrated at points where the clothing is pressed against the skin, such as under belts or garters.

They attach, frequently near a hair follicle, by their mouthparts and first pair of appendages. The larvae inject a fluid that liquefies the immediately adjacent tissues, which are then ingested. The surrounding tissues become hardened and, as feeding progresses, form a tiny tube through which further liquefied tissue may be withdrawn. The larvae become fully fed in four to six days when they drop off the host, leaving behind the tubes that have developed from the feeding activity. The digestive fluid of the mites causes a severe itching and a definite dermatitis. Itching may last for a week or more. Scratching these areas may lead to secondary infection. After leaving the host, the larvae transform into nymphs and later into adults. Neither of these forms attacks humans or other animals. Both feed on vegetable matter.

Several species of Trombiculidae bite their host in their larval stage and cause "intense irritation" or "a wheal, usually with severe itching and dermatitis".  They can also cause Scrub typhus.

Scrub typhus is a life-threatening zoonosis caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms that are transmitted by the larvae of trombiculid mites. Endemic scrub typhus was originally thought to be confined to the so called "tsutsugamushi triangle" within the Asia-Pacific region. In 2006, however, two individual cases were detected in the Middle East and South America, which suggested that the pathogen was present farther afield. Here, we report three autochthonous cases of scrub typhus .. in southern Chile, which suggests the existence of an endemic focus in South America. PMID: 27602667

Cheyletiella

Cheyletiella is a genus of mites that live on the skin surface of dogs, cats, and rabbits.  The adult mites are about 0.385 millimeters long, have eight legs with combs instead of claws, and have palpi that end in prominent hooks. They do not burrow into the skin, but live in the keratin level. Their entire 21-day life cycle is on one host. They cannot survive off the host for more than 10 days.

Cheyletiellosis  is the name given to the  dermatitis caused by mites of this genus; it is highly contagious. Transmission is by direct contact with an affected animal.  Symptoms in animals vary from no signs to intense itching, scales on the skin, and hair loss. The lesions are usually on the back of the animal.
Symptoms in humans include multiple red, itchy bumps on the arms, trunk, and buttocks. Since humans are not a host for the mite, the symptoms usually go away in about three weeks, as long as the exposure ceases.

The attitude of the medical profession to mite infestation

Although researchers seem to be well advanced in their studies of mites and all the problems they cause, the medical profession seems to be lagging way behind.  At best they are simply no help, at worst they diagnose the poor person as psychotic.  They can be a direct cause of the worsening problem.

‘Delusional parasitosis’

 

The name they have coined to justify their use of pharmaceuticals such as anti-depressants is ‘Delusional parasitosis’ or delusional infestation or Ekbom's syndrome.  This is defined as “a delusional disorder in which individuals incorrectly believe they are infested with parasites, insects, or bugs, whereas in reality no such infestation is present.”
It is virtually impossible to see mites without a very high powered microscope, and since many burrow into the skin and are hidden, they are also very difficult to get at.  Thus for any doctor to accuse a person of this without very detailed checks is tantamount to negligence.

Pharmaceutical induced hallucinations

It is in fact possible to be suffering from what are called tactile hallucinations – also known as formication, a sensation resembling insects crawling on or under the skin.  Formication is almost universally caused by mis-prescribed medication, thus if you are indeed suffering from tactile hallucinations your doctor is to blame. 

This LINK takes you to the eHealthme site which compiles the Adverse Drug reports submitted by doctors to the FDA and SEDA in the USA.  It should provide a list of the drugs known to cause tactile hallucinations [if the link does not work the site has an index that can be searched].

Mis-Prescribed immunosuppressants

 

The increase in the problems with mites appears to be in proportion to the medical profession’s use of immunosuppressants.  Although there are a number of different names which successfully hide the true nature of these drugs – glucocorticoids, or ‘steroids’ for example – these drugs suppress the immune system.  Why would a doctor wish to suppress your immune system?  To hide the symptoms of infection – medicine is symptom based, not cause based, they never cure, and by suppressing the immune system the mites simply increase.    

To investigate the frequency of demodex species in the external acoustic meatus in patients with an itchy ear canal…………. RESULTS: Although demodex species was not significantly higher in patients with an itchy ear canal compared with the control group, use of a local steroid increased the parasite frequency in the external ear canal of affected patients.  PMID:  25033419

Mis-prescribed antibiotics

Our intestinal flora and our skin both contain an extremely complex array of friendly bacteria and other microbes, all needed for digestion and extraction of nutrients.  The flora in our intestines and that on our skin act as part of the immune system.  By prescribing anti-biotics we destroy that protection, thus the frequent use of antibiotics merely helps increase the mites – externally and internally.

 

Treatment

Symptom based treatment

As we have seen, it is extremely difficult to get the medical profession to even recognise the existence of these infestations, and since doctors obtain a good steady income from prescribing anti-depressants and anti-psychotics because they are addictive, they tend to prescribe these, justifying the decision by  adding for good measure that the person is ‘psychotic’.

There are doctors, those who actually recognise the problem and these are few and far between, who treat the symptoms and prescribe an immunosuppressant ointment.  Needless to say, this suppresses the immune system reaction, which gives the person the illusion that the mites have gone away, but of course, this is somewhat like putting on a blindfold when a bus is coming towards you to hide the danger – the bus will simply run you over.

So in this case it is better to abandon the traditional approach to treatment and try to tackle the cause head on.

Prevention and Cause based medicine

The observations below provide some papers on suggestions for healing.  In addition:

Food Storage – don’t keep stored products for ages and ages, respect the sell by date and always check for any tell-tale signs – fine dust at the bottom of the jar for example or packet. In one study by Thind and Clarke, cereals and cereal products purchased in retail stores were already contaminated in 21% of the samples and this rose to 38% after the products were stored for a further 6 weeks at the homes of volunteers.  Storing flour for long periods greatly increases the risk of contamination.  Foods with a high water content will attract mites more than very dry goods, as such potato starch and manioc starch are often a problem in tropical countries.  All dry goods need to be stored in the home in sealed containers – glass or plastic with air tight lids.  Whole grains should be washed in running water.  In order that the mites are not spread in the environment by the washing process, it has been suggested that plunging the grains in a bowl of boiling water also helps.

Fridge and cold rooms – mites die in the cold and in dry conditions, thus it would seem that in general, the use of cold/freezer rooms and large fridges may be one way of combatting contamination.  An empty chest freezer may be one way of decontaminating incoming food, it certainly helps get rid of mites in pillows, duvets, other bed linen and soft furnishings in general.

Improve room ventilation and reduce humidity – mites, parasites, fungi and bacteria, and pathogens in general seem to thrive in humid badly ventilated rooms.  Although on the one hand we do not want to waste heat, on the other hand, stale air can be a real killer.  If you live in a cold environment air your house every day, if not at least try to reduce the temperature in your house for a few hours.

In the Scandinavian countries, mite infestations in the home were not common in the past decades. Recent studies show that sensitization to mites among children, particularly in Sweden, is increasing. Similar trends have also been reported in Norway. Poor indoor climate, e.g., high humidity and poor ventilation as a consequence of energy-saving measures, are cited as a possible explanation of this increase. PMID:  10096812

Get Rid of All Possible Source Hosts: - Your pet bird, the pigeons under your balcony, the bird’s nest in your child’s room, the mice in your cellar, the rats in your roof, the squirrels in your basement, the rabbits in their hutches. Get rid of them all. 
Mites can be found in the soil, in water, in plants  and in the nests of birds and rodents, as such it is worth stating the obvious – don’t bring nests into the house.  They infest rodents – mice and rats - and their nests, chicken coops and barns, as well as chickens themselves and mammals.  So yet again, don’t bring live birds and unplucked birds into the house. 

The use of Wistar rats or mice in laboratory settings encourages mites and disease, and pet rats and mice harbour numerous pathogens, for example:

Large numbers of mice (Mus spp.) and rats (Rattus spp.) are maintained for scientific reasons and as pet animals in Germany. While laboratory animals are monitored for pathogenic agents, the hygienic status of pet animals is usually completely unknown.  ….. zoonotic infections are often reported in laboratory settings, e.g. with Hantavirus (Seoul virus), Streptobacillus moniliformis, and Trichphyton mentagrophytes. …. zoonotic infections are also transmitted by mice and rats maintained as pet animals .. including infection by Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, Leptospira interrogans, Streptobacillus moniliformis, Salmonella enterica, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and Ornithonyssus bacoti. Furthermore, entero-hepatic Helicobacter spp. of rats and mice are currently discussed to be involved in the etiology of hepatobiliary diseases. PMID:  18712260

Don’t keep pet lizards or snakes

We compared parasite load (prevalence and mean intensity) of Eutrombicula alfreddugesi larvae on the lizard Liolaemus tenuis sampled during January 2006 and 2007 …All lizards were parasitized by chiggers regardless of location (prevalence, 100%); PMID:  18620475

Cleaning and air filtration – clean your house as often as possible using a vacuum cleaner with a filter and one that does not simply blow the dust about but traps it [like a Dyson], clean the filter each time.  Use an air filter with a washable filter to remove dust particles, clean the filter regularly.

Essential oils – there appear to be some favourable research results from the use of Essential oils, see the observations.  Some papers show the oils to be useful fumigators, others have used the oils [heavily diluted] on the skin directly.  If this route is chosen qualified help must be sought – experts in essential oils, healers with a knowledge of both the mite and the oil to use.  Thymol and Eugenol are known anti-mite chemicals.

Cover up in the country - For chigger mites, avoid infested locations or use repellents [see above] on trousers,  legs and shoes and tuck trousers into boots.

Boosting the immune system – our best protection against mites is our immune system, as such anything which compromises the immune system – immunosuppressants, anti-histamines, anti-perspirants, antibiotics [which destroy the gut flora], Proton pump inhibitors and heartburn treatments [which destroy the stomach acid and thus let pathogens through], need to be avoided.  Eat well to boost the immune system – vitamin C, selenium etc, no supplements.

Sleeping – sleep as much as possible in a cool, well ventilated room.  During sleep our body attempts to repair us.

Showering and washing – our skin is normally well protected with a complex flora of protective friendly bacteria and oils.  A warm shower is soothing and helps to wash away pathogens, but anti-bacterial soaps or washes should never be used as it simply washes away our protective layer.  Use water only.

Companion planting and house plants – there are some plants that contain natural Acaricides  - a substance poisonous to mites or ticks - and there may be the opportunity to use the plants in infested areas, or strewn around rooms.  Acarifuges are mite repellants.

Some are NOT foods, nor should they be eaten, as their effects are external.  Alehoof, for example, is one plant known to be an acaricide.  Yarrow contains 1,8-CINEOLE [Leaf 24 - 960 ppm], which is an  Acaricide and is very useful for farm animals.

But thyme, marjoram, oregano, bergamot, savoury and basil as well as peppermint contain chemicals that via their vapour repel mites.  A house full of pot plants of this type might actually help to repel dust mites for example.  Dr Duke’s phytochemical database contains lists of such plants.

Microwaving – there may be a case for microwaving both stored foods and also small articles that may contain mites. Microwaves kill house dust mites

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae mites are commonly found in house dust, and are important sources of allergens affecting humans. … This study investigated the mortalities of adult mites exposed to 2,450 MHz microwave radiation produced by 3 ovens at various exposure times and power settings. The ovens all had 3 power settings. The average maximum water temperatures generated at high, medium and low power settings were 99.4 +/- 0.2, 84.1 +/- 0.4 and 44.8 +/- 0.9 degrees C, respectively. At high and medium settings, there was 100.0% mortality in both species when exposed for 300 seconds. The mean mortality rates at low power were 10.8 +/- 0.7% for D. pteronyssinus and 9.7 +/- 2.6% for D. farinae. PMID:  21329308

Reduce intensive and factory farming – intensively reared animals in crowded conditions [whether humans or not!] enable the mites to spread quickly, and the systems produce stress, which weakens the immune system thus meaning the animals are more vulnerable.  Antibiotics used in factory farming need to cease.

 

References and further reading

Books

  • Control of Poultry Mites (Dermanyssus) - Dr. Olivier Sparagano [2009]
  • Mites: Ecology, Evolution and Behavior  - Walter, David and Proctor, Heather. CABI. 1999.
  • Parasite Rex - Zimmer, Carl. - 2000.  describes how parasites thrive on Earth and includes an explanation of how humans were colonized by new parasites as we expanded our geographic range, it also explains the means by which our immune systems fight parasites.
  • The Year of the Mite - Jane Ishka, one person’s struggle with mite infestation.  The book also discusses the biology of mites and how evolution has shaped their behavior, as a basis for problem solving how to get rid of them.  The protocols that helped eliminate their mites are in the book too.

Papers

  • Allergy. 1998;53(48 Suppl):64-70.  Mite sensitization in the Scandinavian countries and factors influencing exposure levels.  Munir AK1.
  • Am J Dermatopathol. 2015 Apr;37(4):315-8.  Neutrophilic sebaceous adenitis with intralobular Demodex mites: a case report and review of the literature.  Liaqat M, Wilson LH, Wada D, Florell SR, Bowen AR.
  • Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007 May;76(5):967-71.  A human case of otoacariasis involving a histiostomatid mite (Acari: Histiostomatidae).  Al-Arfaj AM1, Mullen GR, Rashad R, Abdel-Hameed A, OConnor BM, Alkhalife IS, Dute RR.  1Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
  • Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005 Feb;94(2):216-20; quiz 220-2, 306.  An update on oral anaphylaxis from mite ingestion.  Sánchez-Borges M1, Suárez-Chacón R, Capriles-Hulett A, Caballero-Fonseca F.  PMID:  15765735
  • Arch Dermatol Res. 2009 Oct;301(10):747-52. doi: 10.1007/s00403-009-0984-0. Epub 2009 Aug 4.  PCR analysis for Wolbachia in human and canine Demodex mites.  Borgo SN1, Sattler EC, Hogardt M, Adler K, Plewig G.
  • Bull Soc Pathol Exot. 2010 Oct;103(4):238-42. doi: 10.1007/s13149-010-0066-8. Epub 2010 Jul 1.  [Human demodicidosis in Sfax area (Tunisia)].  [Article in French]  Cheikhrouhou F1, Makni F, Neji S, Sellami H, Masmoudi A, Turki H, Ben Zina Z, Fki J, Ayadi A.
  • Clin Exp Allergy. 2001 Apr;31(4):582-9.  Citrus red mite (Panonychus citri) may be an important allergen in the development of asthma among exposed children.  Kim YK1, Park HS, Kim HY, Jee YK, Son JW, Bae JM, Lee MH, Cho SH, Min KU, Kim YY.
  • Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002 Apr;2(2):103-7. Spider-mite allergy and asthma in fruit growers.  Kim YK1, Kim YY.  PMID: 11964757
  • Exp Appl Acarol. 2008 Dec;46(1-4):307-28. doi: 10.1007/s10493-008-9188-0. Epub 2008 Sep 2. Verified and potential pathogens of predatory mites (Acari: Phytoseiidae).  Schütte C1, Dicke M. 1Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 8031, 6700 EH, Wageningen, The Netherlands. conny.schuette@telfort.nl
  • Exp Appl Acarol. 2007;42(2):75-85. Epub 2007 Jun 7.  Incidence of the endosymbionts Wolbachia, Cardinium and Spiroplasma in phytoseiid mites and associated prey.  Enigl M1, Schausberger P.  1Institute of Plant Protection, Department of Applied Plant Sciences and Plant Biotechnology, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Peter Jordanstrasse 82, 1190 Vienna, Austria.
  • FRAGMENTA MYCOLOGICA. IV. USE OF THYMOL AS AN ACARICIDAL AGENT AGAINST INFESTATION OF FUNGUS CULTURES AND MYCOTHECA WITH ACARI (MITES).  BENEDEK T.  Mycopathol Mycol Appl. 1963 May 20;19:87-93.  PMID: 14045067
  • Dini, Leigh A., and Frean, John A. “Clinical Significance of Mites in Urine.” Journal of Clinical Microbiology, December 2005, 43(12).
  • Rong-Bo Zhang et al. “Diagnosis of intestinal acariasis with avidin-biotin system enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.” World Journal of Gastroenterology 2004 May 1; 10(9): 1369-1371.
  • Exp Appl Acarol. 2009 Jun;48(1-2):93-104. doi: 10.1007/s10493-009-9248-0. Epub 2009 Feb 11.  The poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae): a potential vector of pathogenic agents.  Valiente Moro C1, De Luna CJ, Tod A, Guy JH, Sparagano OA, Zenner L.
  • Marangi, M.A. Cafiero, et al. “Evaluation of the Poultry Red Mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, Susceptibility to Some Acaricides in Field Populations in Italy.” Experimental and Applied Acarology, Volume 48, Nos. 1-2, 11-18. 2008. - The authors found large differences in effectiveness among commonly used acaricides, with evidence of increasing resistance.
  • Int J Parasitol. 2014 Oct 15;44(12):955-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2014.08.003. Epub 2014 Sep 16.  Parasitic mites of medical and veterinary importance--is there a common research agenda?  Fischer K1, Walton S2.  PMID:  25218570
  • J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Dec;104(6):1285-92.  Spider mite allergy in apple-cultivating farmers: European red mite (Panonychus ulmi) and two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) may be important allergens in the development of work-related asthma and rhinitis symptoms.  Kim YK1, Lee MH, Jee YK, Hong SC, Bae JM, Chang YS, Jung JW, Lee BJ, Son JW, Cho SH, Min KU, Kim YY.
  • J Infect Dis. 2014 Dec 1;210(11):1693-9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiu336. Epub 2014 Jun 23.  The role of mites in the transmission and maintenance of Hantaan virus (Hantavirus: Bunyaviridae).  Yu XJ1, Tesh RB2.  1School of Public Health, Shandong University, Jinan, China Department of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.
  • J Laryngol Otol. 2014 Aug;128(8):698-701. doi: 10.1017/S0022215114001510. Epub 2014 Jul 17.  Investigation of demodex species frequency in patients with a persistent itchy ear canal treated with a local steroid.  Cevik C1, Kaya OA2, Akbay E1, Yula E3, Yengil E4, Gulmez MI1, Akoglu E1.  1Department of Otolaryngology,Mustafa Kemal University School of Medicine,Antakya,Turkey.
  • Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 2008 Jul-Aug;121(7-8):241-55.  [Zoonoses transmitted by mouse and rat maintained as laboratory or pet animals].  [Article in German]  Bleich A1, Nicklas W.
  • World J Gastroenterol. 2003 Apr;9(4):874-7.  Acaroid mite, intestinal and urinary acariasis.  Li CP1, Cui YB, Wang J, Yang QG, Tian Y.
  • Parasit Vectors. 2014 Aug 29;7:411. doi: 10.1186/1756-3305-7-411.  When mites attack: domestic mites are not just allergens.  Cui Y1.  1Department of Laboratory Medicine, Yancheng Health Vocational & Technical College, Jiefangnan Road 263, Yancheng, Jiangsu Province 224006, P,R, China. ybcui1975@hotmail.com.
  • PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2014 May 29;8(5):e2897. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002897. eCollection 2014.  Scabies mites alter the skin microbiome and promote growth of opportunistic pathogens in a porcine model.  Swe PM1, Zakrzewski M1, Kelly A2, Krause L1, Fischer K1.

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