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Your Worst Nightmare???

Of the 7 billion of us on the planet an estimated 1.5 billion are host to a small hair follicle parasite called Demodex. A group from children’s BBC television thought this sounded like their worst nightmare and in July Dr. Perkins featured on ‘Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature’ to allay their fears. Whilst Demodex, known as the hair follicle or eyelash mite, is ‘parasitic’ it is more commonly commensal, feeding on sebum produced by the skin. Most of us are unaware of our Demodex fauna.

Much of the literature states Demodex are easy to find, but this is not strictly true. After sampling all the CRIPES PhD students and losing half her eyebrow searching, unsuccessfully, for Demodex mites, Dr. Perkins eventually struck lucky with the CBBC cameraman, Steve. The mite prevalence increases with age and the PhD students were clearly too youthful a sample group. Steve, however, was in his 50’s and was happily infested with Demodex.

You can try to sample yourself for Demodex by plucking out a few eyelashes and looking at the slide under a light microscope. Good luck and don’t have nightmares!

demodex1

Demodex spp. mites extracted from Steve the cameraman’s eyelashes, under x40 magnification

demodex2

naomi

Naomi, presenter of ‘Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature’ in the microscopy unit, Cardiff University

Dr sarah

Dr. Sarah Perkins, CRIPES member on ‘Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature’

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