Vector-borne diseases represent a major problem for public health. Bird ectoparasites, especially mesostigmatic mites belonging to Dermanyssidae and Macronyssidae, transmit diseases to poultry. Dermanyssus gallinae (poultry red mite) is an ectoparasite of poultry, pigeons, sparrows, other birds, cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits, and horses. This mite causes severe blood loss, involving high mortality rate in newborns, and sometimes in hens. D. gallinae has also been proven to transmit zoonotic pathogens, such as Chlamydia psittaci , Coxiella burnetii (causes Q Fever), Salmonella, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae (causes human endocarditis), Listeria monocytogenes (may cause encephalitis, meningitis, endocarditis, and abortion), Bartonella, Borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme disease), Babesia c and viruses like Fowl pox virus. Moreover, evidence of transmission to humans has been described, with subsequent apparition of skin lesions and itching.
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D. gallinae is characterized by a specific behavior and spends most of its life in the bird's environment rather than on the host itself, especially in perches, feeding bowls and sand trays; it acts more like a mosquito or a bed bug than like other parasites and human flea, since it only occasionally bites its hosts to take a blood meal, which makes the parasite hard to eliminate by antiparasitic spray treatment. The parasite can be easily transmitted from one infested bird nest to another close one, or from wild birds feeding in open air together with domestic species. This can also represent a way of transmission to humans. Infestations in pigeons and their nests near windows are in direct relationship with human "pseudo-scabies" skin disease. Recommended treatments for persistant human infestations with D. gallinae (and other avian mites) principally include topical and premise-based pyrethroids, premise-based insect growth regulators and diatomaceous earths, and oral ivermectin, all of which have been reported to fail. Recommending topical treatments for D. gallinae (that reside off-host) is inappropriate and unlikely to effectively target and eliminate infestation. In most reported cases removal of nest of feral pigeons with or without subsequent acaricide treatment of the area, is sufficient to arrest infestations.
- Zoonoses in pet birds: review and perspectives. Geraldine Boseret et al.
- Should the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae be of wider concern for veterinary and medical science? David R George et al.