All we are is dust mites (and their microbiomes) in the wind

There is a new genome paper out that should be of interest to many thinking about the built environment, microbes and allergens and related topics: The draft genome, transcriptome, and microbiome of Dermatophagoides farinae reveal a broad spectrum of dust mite allergens.  Published as an open access paper (yay) in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by Ting-Fung Chan et al. There are some quite interesting hypotheses and findings reported here and I have highlighted a few below (quoting directly from the paper – so these should be viewed with a bit of skepticism I suppose):

  • “A novel major allergen, ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase binding protein—like protein, was found and designated Der f 24”
  • “The predominant bacterial genus among 100 identified species was Enterobacter (63.4%).”
  • “Our draft genome included annotated genes for a full phototransduction pathway, excepting rhodopsin, as well as a candidate gene (DEFA_098690) encoding a class A rhodopsin-like GPRadr2. Recovery of the GPRadr2 protein completed the phototransduction pathway, providing support for Furumizo’s assertion that D farinae might have photoreceptors responsive to light in the 500- to 575-nm range.”
  • “The dominant presence of Enterobacter species in the D farinae microbiome, rather than Bartonella species, as previously suggested, is noteworthy given their potential clinical importance; enterobacteria are isolated in approximately 10% of nosocomial respiratory tract infections, with 60% to 70% of those being E cloacae”
  • “The mites died when exposed to ampicillin in culture (data not shown), indicating that they depend on their microbiome.”
  • “Given the mite’s reliance on bacteria for some essential nutrients, such as thiamine and aromatic amino acids (see Figs E12-E14), our observations support the view that there is a symbiotic relationship between D farinae and its gut microbes.”

The draft genome, transcriptome, and microbiome of Dermatophagoides farinae reveal a broad spectrum of dust mite allergens


I have to confess here – I have never really thought deeply about the role of the microbiome of the dust mite in allergy and in the life of the dust mite.  I should have.  But I have not – until now.  This paper makes me realize that the microbiomes of the animals – even the tiny ones – are important components of the microbial ecosystems in our built environment.

One thought on “All we are is dust mites (and their microbiomes) in the wind

  1. Thank you for posting this! I have really awful dust allergies, and it’s hard to live with sometimes. I appreciate any research on the subject because it’ll hopefully make my life easier in the future. Also really happy this is open access so I can share it with my family (who also have severe dust allergies)!

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.