A study published in the journal PNAS just revealed that human faces are hosts to various species of mites that live through generations of individuals; and are evident on all humans the world over.
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Known as the Demodex folliculorum, the face mites cannot be seen with the naked eye, but is always present with everybody in every corner of the Earth, and they are transmitted from one family member to the other and down the family lineage.
Researchers from Bowdoin and the California Academy of Sciences employed genetic-testing techniques to establish that face mites have lived with humans since the dawn of time.
They analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of the mites in different people around the globe to establish that people have different mites – the mite of this family lineage is quite different from that family lineage, meaning the micro-organisms are not easily transmitted from one individual to the other except of course if they are family members living close together.
“It’s shocking that we’re only just discovering how deeply our histories are shared with the mites on our bodies,” noted Dr. Michelle Trautwein, academy curator of entomology and senior author of the study. “They aren’t just bugs on our faces, they are storytellers. Mites tell us about our own ancient history, it’s a complex story and we’ve only just scratched the surface.”
Face mites are really invisible arachnids that live on body hairs, thriving on skin cells and oils. They can be found in the ear, eyebrows, nipple hair and those covering the genitalia. These microorganisms are not harmful, but some species in some people can cause certain eye and skin disorders – raising the need for them to be thoroughly investigated.
The researchers found the parasites in every individual sampled for the mite. “We discovered that people from different parts of the world host different mite lineages,” Trautwein said. “The continent where a person’s ancestry originated tended to predict the types of mites on their faces. We found that mite lineages can persist in hosts for generations. Even if you move to a faraway region, your mites stick with you.”
And funny enough, face mites found on African Americans whose countless generations have lived in the United States all their lives tallied with those found in Africans still living in Africa; supporting the theory that everyone on Earth originated from Africa.
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Two species of face mites are found on human faces – Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis – they are not related. The parasites have eight legs and they appear always swimming in skin oils. They do not likely cause any medical problems, even though they are also found on dead bodies.