What makes the allergy causing house dust mite so dangerous?
As an effective scavenger of a wide-range of organic matter, the house dust mite needs to depend upon its many digestive enzymes to break-down tough, often fibrous, foods. Unfortunately one of the mite's digestive enzymes is very similar to one produced by a parasitic mange mite that harms sheep and goats. Doctors now think that it is this similarity that may be the trigger for a harmful allergic reaction in house dust mite sensitive people. Their immune system has identified the house dust mite as a parasite, and a threat to their health.
House dust mites do not bite in the usual way, but their digestive enzymes can harm delicate cells in the eyes, nose, lungs and on skin. In vulnerable people this harm may result in an allergic reaction that, in the case of asthma, can be deadly.
The biology, ecology and allergenicity of house dust mites should be studied in schools as a project in life science. In this way older children can learn about the interesting, tiny, uninvited animal that may share their homes. The benefit will be that children grow-up with a basic understanding of the mite, and why it's a major cause of allergic diseases of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema. One of the spin-offs of a school project could be that carers and parents of allergic children may taking an interest during the educational process.
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