Dust mites are a huge source of household dust allergies, and can trigger asthma in children and adults. And, recent research shows that these house pests have a bigger impact than previously thought. Namely, they don’t just cause asthma, but they can also damage the human DNA. And, if the DNA is not repaired properly, it can be fatal for the lung cells.
The findings published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggest that the capacity of DNA repair, which is different among healthy individuals, could be a vulnerability that puts an asthmatic patient at a greater risk of developing pathogens associated with severe asthma and lung damage.
What Are Dust Mites?
Besides the inevitable pollen, dust mites are a very common cause of allergies. These mites are parasites that live in our homes, and particularly in the bedding, carpets, curtains and other fibrous materials. You can even find them lurking in the kitchen! Dust mites are spasmodic insects, classified as conifer pests, which feed on dead skin cells and various other organic substances.
To some people, inhaling dust mites can cause allergies, rhinitis, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and sometimes even asthma. The enzyme (DerP1) responsible for allergic reactions is found in the mucosal feces of the mites, and its smell is best felt in an uncleaned vacuum bag.
Necessary conditions for reproduction of dust mites are moisture (over 60%), and a source of food, which in this case are mostly humans and other organic substances. When the humidity in your home is below optimal, the mites function slower, become dormant and die out. As for food, humans discard 300-400 grams of dead skin cells annually. Thus, you always need to control the conditions in your home!
Dust mites have no stomach, and therefore, most of the digestion is done outside of their bodies. Namely, they secrete enzymes on the food, to digest it before it enters their organism. Also, they eat the same particle of food several times, allowing them to dissolve by themselves. In the end, they leave a few particles of the foods behind them, which scientists call mite feces.
Asthma And Lung Damage Induced By Dust Mites
An exaggerated response to different allergens usually triggers asthma. And, as we already mentioned, dust mites are one of these allergens. The immune cells affected by the allergen, flood the lungs, secreting chemicals called immune cytokines. Even though the role of these cytokines is to regulate the immune and inflammatory responses, in this situation, they can narrow the airways and cause difficulty breathing. Approximately 300 mio people suffer from asthma all over the world, and in the US alone, about 8% of population is affected.
The study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology focuses on allergies induced by dust mites, because they are omnipresent, and thrive in humid and warm climates. Dust mites cause allergic symptoms like watery eyes and sneezing, and in people sensitive to these organisms, they can even cause severe allergic asthma. More than 85% of asthmatic patients are allergic to dust mites, so it is considered as one of the main causes of allergic asthma.
Even though the exact mechanism is not yet known, when they come in contact with the human cells, mites can damage the DNA. Namely, the results show that these parasites not only induce an immune response, but can also cause DNA damage directly in the epithelial cells of the lungs. The harmful effects are doubled when the repair of the DNA is inhibited. This process shows that the repair of the DNA is important to prevent cell death.
Here are some tips on how to help prevent this attack:
– Regularly ventilate your home, especially in the winter period. This not only changes the air in the rooms, but it also reduces the relative humidity in the air.
– Clean and vacuum your home regularly, to remove the complex enzymes and feces produced by the dust mites.
– During the summer period, expose your bedding, pillows and blankets to direct sunlight, to destroy the mites.
– Regularly wash the fabrics and stuffed toys with water and detergent, on high temperature (more than 60°C) to kill the mites.
– If you cannot wash certain items, don’t worry. You can always freeze them to destroy the mites.
– Reduce the number of carpets, decorative pads, curtains and various fabric covers in your home.
– Avoid upholstered furniture.
– These parasites hate cold and dry air, thus it’s recommendable not to use an air humidifier.
– Don’t smoke in your home.
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