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Mite Be Dangerous

Reptiles can harbour mites carrying rickettsiosis-causing bacteria posing a public health risk

29 March 2021

Mite Be Dangerous

Rickettsia bacteria cause rickettsiosis in humans – a condition which often carries a spotty rash or flu-like symptoms, but can also be lethal if treatment is delayed. So epidemiologists are interested in how and where these bacteria thrive, and how they might come into contact with humans. This Italian wall lizard (Podarcis siculus) may hold the answers – in some areas of the world they become infested with Trombicula autumanlis mites, their bright orange larvae finding an unusual shelter in the cracks between this lizard’s belly scales. In turn, the mites are known hosts of Rickettsia bacteria. The wall lizards are certainly not shy – often spotted darting across paths and tables in outdoor restaurants around the Mediterranean – but may present a public health risk in places where they pick us these tiny passengers.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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