Is Demodex Contagious?

Is Demodex Contagious

Demodex is a mite. Mites are ectoparasites; this means that they live on our bodies instead of burying themselves into it. (Source). These specific mites live on human faces, and other areas of the body that have oil glands and hair follicles. These microscopic 8-legged animals are really two different species, Demodex folliculorum (D. folliculorum), which is longer and thinner, and Demodex brevis (D. brevis) which is shorter and fatter. While generally speaking these little bugs are not a problem, both species can become your worst nightmare. 

A Little About Demodex

Demodex mites are also known as eyelash mites because they love the environment that human eyelashes provide. They live on every continent and can be found on much of the human population. Scientists are certain that they have been around longer than recorded human history but were only identified in the 1840s. Discover Magazine has this to say about them:

In 1976, legendary mite specialist William Nutting wrote, “One can conclude that wherever mankind is found, hair follicle mites will be found and that the transfer mechanism is 100% effective! (One of my students noted it was undoubtedly the first invertebrate metazoan to visit the moon!)”

But it’s hard to say exactly how common they are. The first estimate came from a 1903 study, which found the critters in 49 out of 100 French cadavers. The next count, from 1908, found them in 97 out of 100 German cadavers. The nationalities are probably a red herring. What’s clearer is that age matters. The mites aren’t inherited at birth, so each generation picks them up anew, probably from direct contact with our parents. Thanks, parents! If you’re under 20, good news! A French study from 1972 says that you’ve only got a 4 percent chance of carrying Demodex. If you’re old, bad news! You’ve almost certainly got Demodex somewhere.

The mites spend most of their time buried head-down in our hair follicles – the stocking-shaped organs that enclose and produce our hairs. They’re most commonly found in our eyelids, nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin. That’s not to say they’re restricted to the face: Demodex has been found in the hairs of the ear canal, nipple, groin, chest, forearm, penis, and butt too. Generally, dry skin is a turn-off for them. They prize bodily real estate that’s flooded with oils (sebum). This explains why they love your face. It might also explain why their numbers are apparently higher in the summer when hot temperatures ramp up sebum production.

Getting Sick from Demodex Mites

The large majority of people carry the mites without developing symptoms of demodicosis or dermatosis, which are the clinical names associated with the issues that Demodex can cause. It is well established that these are influenced by both internal and external (or environmental) factors. The National Institutes of Health report that Demodex mites tend to cause the most issues in people who have immunological issues, as well as those on whom there is an infestation or mite population explosion. This can cause rosacea, dermatitis, alopecia, blepharitis, and other disorders that instigate hair loss, irritation, and/or pustules. 

Demodex mites are nocturnal, staying buried in your hair follicles and sebaceous glands during the day and moving about your skin at night. They only live for about 2 weeks, during which time they store all of their waste in their bodies. That waste is released all at once when the mite dies. The waste and accompanying bacteria are what causes a reaction in those affected. 

Older people, primarily senior citizens, are much more likely to have demodicosis and suffer complications. More people in their 20s and 30s have significant mite populations, however, because that is when sebum (the oil that Demodex mites feed on) is at its peak. For this reason, it is really rare that children under 5 have mites (they do not have a lot of sebum). Demodex of both species are reportedly more common in men than they are in women. (Source). Dr. Megan Thoemmes and colleagues recently found that at least some Demodex mites live on almost every adult over 18 years old. 

Catching and Preventing Demodex Mites

So this begs the questions of exactly where Demodex mites come from, how they become so populous on some people, and if they are contagious. 

Demodex mites are spread from person to person, largely through direct contact. They breed and increase in population naturally once they are on a host which helps to explain why they exist in smaller populations in younger people and much greater concentrations in older people. Babies are born without any mites on their bodies. Presumably, any demodex found on a newborn is there because it came from close contact with the mother, or another adult. Since babies don’t produce what the mites need to live, their populations do not increase. Any two people that are in close contact can transmit mites to one another. Mites cannot, however, live away from a host for very long, and so contact almost certainly has to be direct. 

The only way to prevent catching Demodex mites, or inhibiting the growth of the population that you already almost certainly have, is by effective intervention. Cliradex is specifically formulated to wipe them away. It can be your best friend in your quest to avoid catching these tiny arachnids.