Marvellous Mites

face mite

Hold on to your breakfast because we’re about to delve into some pretty gross science…

Our skin is home to millions of tiny creatures which, when all is going to plan, don’t do us any harm whatsoever. One such species of  mite is Demodex folliculorum, which lives on our faces, in and around hair follicles. These mites are classified as commensals, meaning that they neither harm or benefit the host they live on. The interesting thing about this mite is its preference for particular faces. Recent research has shown that people with different geographical ancestry hosted different mixes of mites. In the study, four lineages (meaning that they all had a common ancestor) of Demodex folliculorum mites were identified living on the faces of 70 volunteers. Those of Asian and European descent seemed to have fewer types of mites than those of Latin American and African descent. It was also found that within families, parents and adult children seemed to share mites with similar genes, which indicated that Demodex folliculorum is most likely spread by close physical contact.

One conclusion for all these findings, was that the number and type of mite reflected the historical patterns of human migration. The research suggested that the mites may have evolved with their human hosts over millions of years. This is pretty useful to know as it has the potential to allow us to study the global migration pattern of ancient humans in more detail.

So, even though it’s pretty icky to think about all the tiny mites living on your face, it’s maybe also a little reassuring to know that your parents and your siblings probably have the same types of mites crawling all over them too!


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