Timeline of Scientific Understanding: Mites and Human Infestation

Timeline:  Advances in Scientific Understanding of the Effects of D. gallinae on Humans


Questions about D. gallinae and humans

Pre-1958 Understanding

1958 Study

1959-2009 Understanding

2009-2010:  State of the Art Knowledge

Questions for Continued Research

Can red poultry mites bite humans and then reproduce? The red poultry mite is species specific.  In particular, it does not bite humans. Human blood cells found in the guts of mites collected from an infested bedroom, showing that mites do feed on humans D. gallinae ingests human blood but cannot reproduce based on feeding on human blood. D. gallinae can “easily infest” a number of farm animals and humans (Sparagano book).  There is now enough evidence to show that D. gallinae can reproduce after ingesting human blood (Sparagano, personal communication)
Are some people bitten more than others? Although D. gallinae attacks certain chickens more than others, it attacks all humans at the same rate.  Differences in symptoms are caused by different levels of allergic reaction. There are differences in attack rates on humans, which may be caused by differences in human pheromones (Sparagano, personal communication) As pheromone levels increase at adolescence, are human children more likely to become infested?
Can D. gallinae pass diseases to people? D. gallinae carries few if any organisms that cause disease in humans D. gallinae is a vector of a number of serious human diseases, including encephalitis and spirochetes.  The role of D. gallinae as a vector of human disease has been undervalued.
How should infested homes be treated? D. gallinae is readily eliminated with pesticides such as pyrethrins. D. gallinae is developing resistance to all pesticides currently in use to control it (Sparagano book). What is an optimal home treatment protocol?
What treatments should people receive who are repeatedly bitten when their homes are infested? When chickens are infested, treat the coop and the chickens.  When humans are infested, treat the home environment only. Some essential oils can be effective (eucalyptus, lavender, thyme) (Sparagano book and personal communication).  Application of talc can be effective.  (Sparagano, personal communication).  Garlic kills 100% of D. gallinae (Sparagano book) What is an optimal human treatment protocol?
Do the professionals we consult have up-to-date information? As of July 2009, our local 4H was still telling members that “chicken mites don’t bite people.” When our house became infested in 2009, various professionals provided this outdated information. What is the best way to keep physicians and vector control updated?


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