You may think that you’ve got the house to yourself, but chances are you have about 100 different types of animals living with you. Many of them are harmless, but a few can be dangerous in ways you wouldn’t expect. New research explores exactly whom you share your home with and how they got there.
Judged by its name (if not by its looks), Dermatophagoides ssp., aka the ordinary house dust mite, is something of a plubby homebody. It feeds on organic detritus, most notably flakes of shed human skin, and likes to hunker down in places like mattresses, sofas and carpets. Its gut contains digestive enzymes that make its feces a potent inducer of allergic reactions. It is a common cause of asthma. An estimated 65 million people worldwide are affected by the mites.
So it comes a something of a surprise that D. spp. is an accomplished world traveler, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. That airplane seat is more cramped than you think. It may be occupied by thousands of mite-y small fellow travelers.
The Michigan scientists conducted a new genetic study that found connections between house dust mite populations in the U.S. and South Asia. “House dust mites can easily travel on an airline passenger’s clothes, skin, food and baggage,” said Pavel Klimov, an evolutionary biologist. “Like humans, they use air travel to visit new places, where they establish new populations, expand their ranges and interact with other organisms through various means.”
The researchers did find some lingering genetic differences between two major species of house dust mite, the American house dust mite (D. farinae) and the European house dust mite (D. pteroynssinus). These gene differences or mutations might someday help lead to new therapeutic anti-allergen drugs.
“You may think that you’ve got the house to yourself, but chances are you have about 100 different types of animals living with you. Many of them are harmless, but a few can be dangerous in ways you wouldn’t expect. New research explores exactly whom you share your home with and how they got there.”
Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small with Deep Look.
For over 200 million asthma sufferers worldwide, upholstered home furnishings and textiles can really exacerbate their condition, often leading them to go without. Now, Fervent Carpet from Studio Siem-Pabom could provide a solution: the coiled rug connects to the radiator and once heated, kills off the dust mites living within it. READ MORE…
Hi! How often should one wash the mattress cover on the bed? It's so big and bulky it takes up it's own load, how often do I really need to wash it? Thanks!
If you’re keeping up on washing your sheets often enough, the mattress cover shouldn’t need to be washed more than every 6-8 weeks or so. People who suffer from allergies may want to wash it more frequently, however.
I recently read that it's actually more hygienic to not make your bed in the morning; that the cool dark space in between the sheets is more hospitable for dust mites and thus mad beds will have more mites than unmade beds. I was wondering if you had any additional input on the to make the bed or not to make the bed issue?
Dust mites evolving in reverse and violating Dollo’s law
Systematic Biology: For permanent parasites, the most intriguing question is whether these organisms can return to a free-living lifestyle and, thus, escape an evolutionary “dead end.”
According to Dollo’s law, a theory proposed in 1893 by Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo, evolution is “unidirectional and irreversible.”
But a new study by evolutionary biologists Pavel Klimov and Barry O'Connor conclusively shows that dust mites, which are free-living organisms crawling in your sofas, have evolved from parasites who depend on a host. These parasites in turn evolved from free-living organisms. Thus - dust mites have evolved back to a complex trait of a prior ancestor.