JOURNAL ARTICLE

Under the lash: Demodex mites in human diseases

Noreen Lacey, Kevin Kavanagh, Scheffer C G Tseng
Biochemist 2009 August 1, 31 (4): 2-6
20664811
Demodex mites, class Arachnida and subclass Acarina, are elongated mites with clear cephalothorax and abdomens, the former with four pairs of legs. There are more than 100 species of Demodex mite, many of which are obligatory commensals of the pilosebaceous unit of mammals including cats, dogs, sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, deer, bats, hamsters, rats and mice. Among them, Demodex canis, which is found ubiquitously in dogs, is the most documented and investigated. In excessive numbers D. canis causes the inflammatory disease termed demodicosis (demodectic mange, follicular mange or red mange), which is more common in purebred dogs and has a hereditary predisposition in breeding kennels1. Two distinct Demodex species have been confirmed as the most common ectoparasite in man. The larger Demodex folliculorum, about 0.3-0.4 mm long, is primarily found as a cluster in the hair follicle (Figure 1a), while the smaller Demodex brevis, about 0.2-0.3 mm long with a spindle shape and stubby legs, resides solitarily in the sebaceous gland (Figure 1b). These two species are also ubiquitously found in all human races without gender preference. The pathogenic role of Demodex mites in veterinary medicine is not as greatly disputed as in human diseases. In this article, we review the key literature and our joint research experience regarding the pathogenic potential of these two mites in causing inflammatory diseases of human skin and eye. We hope that the evidence summarized herein will invite readers to take a different look at the life of Demodex mites in several common human diseases.

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