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A large number of mite species infest animals. Most inhabit the skin, feathers or mucous membranes, although a few are endoparasites. Many mites are tolerated without consequences unless their populations become very large; other species regularly cause pruritus, mild to severe dermatitis, and hair or feather loss (mites found on the integument), or respiratory signs (air sac mites). Mites such as Sarcoptes scabiei (sarcoptic mange) and Psoroptes ovis (psoroptic mange) can cause significant economic losses in livestock from debilitation and damage to the hides and wool. Secondary bacterial infections and mortality can occur in severe mite infestations, notably during infestation with S. scabiei and other members of the Sarcoptidae. Sarcoptic mange is also a concern in threatened or fragmented wildlife populations; some populations have experienced severe declines in their numbers after these mites were introduced. Avian mites such as Ornithonyssus sylviarum, Orn, bursa, Dermanyssus gallinae, Knemidokoptes spp. and Sternostoma tracheacolum can cause disease in poultry or pet birds. Mites also affect laboratory and pet rodents, rabbits, exotic animals and reptiles.

Humans occasionally become infested with zoonotic mites, which can cause discomfort and dermatitis. A few species can transmit diseases, such as human vesicular rickettsiosis. Mites from animals do not usually survive for very long on humans, and most zoonotic infestations are self-limiting.

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Iowa State University



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