Genomics

Humans and mites: A love story

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Science  22 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6271, pp. 351
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6271.351-a

Mites and humans have a long evolutionary history

PHOTO: ANDREW SYRED/SCIENCE SOURCE

Like it or not, skin mites can inhabit our skin. They live—mostly harmlessly—deep in our pores and sebaceous glands. To better understand their genetic diversity, Palopoli et al. took skin samples from 70 people living in the United States with a variety of ancestries. Genetic sequencing of their mitochondria allowed the scientists to calculate the rate of the mites' evolution. This revealed an evolutionary timeline for the mite variants and, therefore, of their human hosts. The results show that mites have been associates of humans since we evolved. Specifically, people of African descent have the greatest mite strain variance and those of European descent, the least, with a range of distinct geographically distributed variants in between.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 112, 15958 (2015).

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