The Shifting Ethics of Mite Fighting

People with parasitic mites all need help in some form or other, and it is difficult to get help without putting others at risk. You escape to a hotel for a night: how do you know your sheets will be thoroughly washed? You throw something out: how do you know no one else will scavenge and use it? You sell your house: even if you disclose, how do you know how the buyers will be affected?

I am convinced we are living at the end of the dark age of mite infestation. Already there are researchers using direct DNA detection on non-parasitic face mites like Demodex folluculorum, who have found ten times the incidence previously believed. Other entomologists are starting to write about the medical impact of parasitic mites like Dermanyssus gallinae. It’s only a matter of time until the two research streams come together and we get to a parasitic mite DNA detection kit for use on humans.

At the same time, other biologists are using the DNA fish leave behind as they swim in rivers (called eDNA, for environmental DNA) to tell which species have swum by. It turns out every organism leaves trace nucleic acids in the environment as it passes. Once that technique is applied to locating parasitic mites in the home, the era of relying on ineffective glue traps will be over.

These developments will be wonderful in several ways. They will end the scourge of misdiagnosis with delusional parasitosis, which has been fueled by lack of real data. Accurate medical and environmental measurements of parasitic mite infestations will enable people with mites to advocate for more research funding, and to take better advantage of the limited treatments that currently exist.

But on the flip side, it may be tough to persuade others to help when the risks are well defined. The therapist who thought you were imagining things may suddenly start worrying you will infest the upholstery in her office. The contractor who comes to haul away your carpeting may turn down the work.

It is incredibly frustrating not to be believed. Real data will usher in a new era. But in the first stages, when the reality of parasitic mites is better understood and before there are better treatments, people with mites will not be able to hide behind the ignorance of others. It will be a far better problem than the ones they face today.

Biohacking Parasitic Mites: Self Diagnosis by Open Source PCR

When scientists and physicians assume parasitic mites cannot infest people, the result is little or no research that would lead them to understand otherwise. One way to end this Catch-22 is through biohacking parasitic mites, which is to say, becoming our own diagnosticians.

Formal research conducted on scavenger face mites such as Demodex folliculorum has shown that detection of mite DNA using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a much better diagnostic tool than traditional, mostly futile efforts to capture mites themselves.

Yet to my knowledge, no formal scientific studies are being conducted to capture parasitic mite DNA on infested humans.

The Citizen Science movement (also known as Biohacking) exists in part to address gaps in research that would benefit particular patient groups. The more that persons with mites can take charge of their own diagnosis, the sooner they will have evidence to illustrate that parasitic mite infestation is a problem that requires further research and medical support.

Below is a link to purchase open source PCR equipment.

Making the most of this opportunity will require open source sequences for DNA of various mite species. More to come on this topic. Stay tuned.

And in the meantime, let’s encourage entomologists and other scientists to conduct formal investigations as well.