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Your face probably has mites living inside of it


Skin mites

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(NaturalNews) Graduate student Megan Thoemmes has discovered something rather disturbing while undertaking her latest research project. Enrolled in biology at North Carolina State University, Thoemmes' research suggests we all have microscopic, semi-invisible mites living in our faces.

Demodex mites, a group of insects that enjoy dwelling in our hair follicles and glands, are thought to live in the majority of human faces, according to a new study that was recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Entitled "Ubiquity and Diversity of Human-Associated Demodex Mites," the study sampled 253 people over the age of 18 and discovered that 100 percent of them had mite DNA on their faces, suggesting that their presence might be universal.

Many organisms live on us or within us, and less than just 10 percent of the cells in our bodies actually belong to us, according to researchers. Most of these co-inhabitants consist of bacteria, but other multicellular species such as fungi, intestinal worms, lice and ectoparasites also colonize the human body.

While many experts such as dermatologists, veterinarians and ophthalmologists are familiar with these mites, little is known about their diversity and evolutionary history.

Previous research found Demodex residing in a variety of ethnic groups ranging from white Europeans to Australian aborigines to Devon Island Eskimos, according to a report by National Geographic. Learning how common the mites are has always been difficult.

Mites are unevenly distributed all over our skin, meaning that testing one area of the face might yield a higher density than others. Instead of visually searching for mites like scientists did in the past, Thoemmes looked for their DNA. When they die, mites release a lifetime of DNA-containing waste, making it easier to understand their whereabouts.

Thoemmes recruited volunteers through the "Meet Your Mites" project, in which volunteers offered samples from their faces.

"We had really good responses," said Thoemmes. "People act grossed out at first, but they get excited when they see the mites under the microscope."

More than 48,000 species of mites exist, but just two live on humans

To date, analysts have discovered two species of mites on the human body, D. brevis and D. folliculorum, the first of which is commonly found within sebacious glands (small oil-producing glands) associate with vellus hairs -- fine, short, light-colored hairs often referred to as "peach fuzz" -- while the latter prefers the area of follicle above the sebaceous gland where it consumes cell contents.

The mites typically live at densities of just one to a few mites per gland. Researchers collected mites from the samples by using one of the following methods: using cellophane tape to trap the mites, scraping areas of skin where mites are likely to reside, or plucking eyelash and eyebrow hairs.

Close observation found that approximately 3-55 percent of humans harbor Demodex, with most studies falling in the 10-20 percent range, according to PLOS ONE. The mites are believed to exist on other mammals as well.

The Demodex species inhabiting eyelashes and eyebrows contained a different genetic sequence than mite populations living on the skin, and their genetic structure seemed to vary geographically.

More than 48,000 species of mites exist, but the Demodex genus has evolved perfectly so that they can wiggle themselves into our glands. The eight-legged arachnids are believed to make their way onto our skin at birth, passing from mother to offspring, sometimes through breastfeeding or vaginal delivery. However, little is actually known about mite transmission.

Researchers are still unsure of how humans acquired the littler critters. Some suggest that people contracted them when they domesticated wolves, while others say they could've come from apes or hominids, or were passed on to humans through interactions with mammals.

Additional sources:

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com

http://mymites.yourwildlife.org

http://www.plosone.org

http://www.britannica.com

http://www.vellushair.com

http://www.healio.com

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