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Can Demodex Mites Transfer From Pets to Humans?

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Demodex Canis image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Most clinical papers on rosacea refer to only two demodex mite species found in humans, demodex folliculorum and demodex brevis. For example, Wired magazine in its article on demodex reports, "Our network of skin caverns offers food and shelter to two different species of mites: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis." However, there are a large range of demodex mite species (one source says, "approximately 50,000 species have been described" [1]). 

In dogs there are at least three types of demodex, Demodex canis, D. injai and D. cornei. [2] There are different species of mites living on birds and rodents. In fact, just about all mammals have some species of demodex mites living on them. Can any of these mites, especially on pets transfer to humans? 

The answer is yes. 

"Human infestations with mites such as Cheyletiella and Sarcoptes scabiei are reported occasionally. The transmission rate for S scabiei var canis from dogs to people is estimated to be 10-50%, and close, prolonged skin contact is the most important route of transmission. Cheyletiella mites from animals are also reported to bite humans readily; however, clinical signs may not be common, or possibly not recognized. One source estimates that approximately 20% of pet owners with Cheyletiella- infested animals are affected. Not all mites, even those known to have zoonotic potential, will readily infest people. For example, human infestations with species such as Ophionyssus natricis or Lepoacarus gibbus appear to be uncommon." [1]

"A twenty-year-old girl student who feeds a Miniature Pinscher crossbred dog in her house for a while noticed common itchy papulopustular lesions, incrustation and some alopecic loci in her dog and admitted to Selçuk University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Parasitology. Itchy papules and pustules were also observed in dog's owner face and arm about three or four weeks later. Skin scrapings and hair samples were taken from the patient and the dog and examined with light microscope. Adult and egg forms of Demodex spp. were detected in both patient and dog specimens in microscopic examination." [3]

"Mange is a skin disease that is caused by two different species of mites. Sarcoptic manage is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. Demodectic mange can be caused by several mites of the Demodex family. Sarcoptic mange is extremely itchy and highly contagious to other animals and humans. Demodectic mange is not as itchy, and while is can be transmitted to other dogs, it is not contagious to humans or cats." [4]

"Scabies, an infestation by the itch or scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, remains a major public health problem worldwide and a common cause of PUO in returning travelers. The worldwide prevalence of scabies has been estimated to be about 300 million cases/y.  Although more often associated with crowding, homelessness, institutionalization, and immunodeficiency, scabies occurs worldwide in both sexes, at all ages, and among all ethnic and socioeconomic groups." [5] "Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite is a parasitic mite (an arthropod) that burrows into skin and causes scabies. The mite is found in all parts of the world. Humans are not the only mammals that can become infected. Other mammals, such as wild and domesticated dogs and cats (in which it is one cause of mange) as well as ungulates, wild boars, bovids, wombats, koalas, and great apes are affected." Wikipedia

Generally speaking it is rare for humans to contact mites from pets, but it can happen as the above sources are cited as sources. Usually, the only species of demodex mites found on humans are demodex folliculorum and demodex brevis, but in rare cases other species are found, with the exception of scabies as noted above which effects millions.  

Also see: 

What is the difference between demodex, dust mites, bed bugs and scabies?

Demodex Update

End Notes

[1] Acariasis, Mange and Other Mite Infestations, June 2012
The Center for Food Security and Public Health, Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

[2] Arachnida, Canine Parasites and Parasitic Diseases, Science Direct 

[3] Mikrobiyol Bul. 2018 Apr;52(2):214-220. doi: 10.5578/mb.66410.
[A dog related Demodex spp. infestation in a student: a rare Demodex case].
Esenkaya Taşbent F, Dik B.

[4] Mange in Dogs
a.k.a. Sarcoptic mange, Demodectic mange, scabies, etc

[5] Journal of Travel Medicine, Volume 17, Issue 1, 1 January 2010, Pages 21–31,
Mite‐Transmitted Dermatoses and Infectious Diseases in Returning Travelers 
James H. Diaz, MD, MPH&TM, Dr PH

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I get a itchy skin and hives during the summer from my cat I got it so bad I had to take steriods to help clear up my skin. I dont get it from any other cats just him. I wont get rid of him he means too much to me so I tolerate it. Do you think he has these mites or?

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The general consensus is that the mites on cats or dogs are a different species, however, as pointed out above, scabies and other demodex can infect a human from a pet. There should be more research on this but as it stands now the data shows that the species of mites on humans are different than on pets, generally speaking. Each mammal usually has its own species of demodex mites. The point of this post is that since we do know that mites can travel from pets to humans, there is a possibility that demodex do indeed infect humans from pets. No one certainly wants to be infected with scabies and avoids any contact with an infected human or pet.  

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