Rethinking Healthcare

The secret to rosacea: mite poop in you pores

Posting in Technology

Tiny anus-less mites reside in almost everyone's face. Rosacea may be your skin's stress response to an overabundance of their rotting waste.

There are a few perks typically associated with age: diminished concern over the judgement of others, greater self-control, a deeper appreciation of close relationships, and, an end to the acne that plagues most adolescents and twenty-somethings.

Unfortunately, a sizable percentage of the world's population misses out on that last perk of clear skin. They suffer from rosacea, red blotchy facial skin with no known cause and no known cure.

No known cause, that is, until Irish researchers recently published an article in the Journal of Medical Microbiology. They point a finger at tiny mites that inhabit our faces. TIME.com reported yesterday:

The little eight-legged mites called Demodex, which are related to spiders, are apparently drawn to the hair follicles of eyebrows and eyelashes and to the oily pores on your nose, forehead and cheeks. They feed on the oil, or sebum, in your skin, and according to an article in New Scientist, they crawl around your face at night to mate, then crawl back into your pores to lay eggs and die.

The mites are born without an anus, so everything they eat stays in them until they curl up and die in your pores. Their bodies decompose, releasing their full lifespan of waste into your skin. (Yes, you're welcome.)

It appears that people with rosacea have more than the typical load of these rotting bugs. Again TIME.com explains:

Normally, adults have about one or two mites per square centimeter of facial skin, but those with rosacea may have 10 times as many, according to [one of the article's authors]. The stress that often triggers rosacea flare-ups may do so by changing the makeup of your facial oils, making it more delectable to the mites.

The researchers suggest that rosacea arises as a reaction to bacteria in the mites' feces. They're now working to produce antibodies to that bacteria's proteins, which could offer a promising new treatment option for rosacea sufferers.

[via TIME.com and NewScientist]

Photo: Tomasz Przechlewski/Flickr

Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure