Parasitic mites are gradually learning to live with us in peace

(ORDO NEWS) — Most people act as a habitat for a wide variety of parasites, and the acne gland that has settled in our hair follicles is not the most harmful of them.

Now scientists have figured out that this tiny tick is on its way from parasite to permanent symbiont that will live with us in a mutually beneficial partnership.

The acne gland ( Demodex folliculorum ) is only 0.2-0.5 millimeters in size and is found in most people and is usually harmless.

It colonizes the hair follicles on top of the sebaceous gland, usually on the face and chest, and feeds on sebum and dead skin cells without causing much trouble to the host. Exceptions are massive skin lesions with iron glands: in this case, a disease called demodicosis may develop.

Acne gland lives in the skin of people of all races and peoples, and with a person’s age, the probability of finding a tick on it increases : if young children can still not be affected, then in people over 70 years old, this small parasite occurs in 100 percent of cases.

Now scientists have found out that the acne gland does not just parasitize on us: it learns to cohabit with us, turning from a parasite into a symbiont that will enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with a person.

The sequencing of the genomes of the glanders showed that these ticks “refused” most of the genes found in relatives, absolutely minimizing their needs.

In particular, acne glands are no longer protected from ultraviolet radiation and cannot produce the hormone melatonin : all this must be provided by their owner, on whose face they get out at night while he sleeps.

Also, the glanders have undergone curious anatomical changes: in particular, their reproductive organs have shifted forward, and now the penises of males stick out of the back in the forward-upward direction.

Parasitic mites are gradually learning to live with us in peace 2
Anatomy of a female acne gland: (a) genitals, (b) legs, (c) mouthparts

The low number of ironwort genes means that this species has extremely low genetic diversity, that is, from the point of view of evolution, it has reached a dead end and cannot develop further.

Probably, the little tick “made a bet” on cohabitation with people and is now gradually turning from our optional “guest” into an obligate, that is, permanent one.

What benefit can people get from a small arthropod? Probably, it will not be very significant, but pleasant: since the glands feed on fat and dead skin cells, they will be able to effectively cleanse the pores on the face, preventing the appearance of blackheads and acne.


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