Are Dust Mites Damaging Your DNA?

A study has found that indoor dust mites can cause asthma in children and adults, while also damaging DNA in the lungs.

House dust mites are an extremely common allergen as well as a form of indoor air pollution. Despite their commonality among households, their affects on human beings are anything but benign. While dust mites have been known to cause asthma for awhile now, a new study conducted by MIT and the National University of Singapore have concluded that this form of air pollution can profoundly damage DNA in the lungs.

A microscopic look at a dust mite.

“DNA damage is a component in asthma development, potentially contributing to the worsening of asthma. In addition to activation of immune responses, patients’ DNA repair capacity may affect disease progression,” says Bevin Engelward, a professor of biological engineering at MIT and a senior author of the study. “Ultimately, screening for DNA repair capacity might be used to predict the development of severe asthma.”

Damaged lung DNA can sometimes prove fatal if the DNA is not adequately repaired, MIT News reports. These dust mites are able to thrive in over-humidified environments and can provoke visible symptoms like sneezing and watery eyes, along with the unseen damage done to the lungs.

“This important report suggests that a paradigm shift may now be in order for allergens as environmental agents, and also for our understanding of the steps by which inhaled allergens interact with the lung to induce allergic asthma,” says Michael Fessler, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who was not involved in the research.

Those who are asthmatic are prone to allergic reactions when coming into contact with common household dust mites. MIT News reports that up to 85% of asthma sufferers are also allergic. For more on the study’s findings and to read the article in its entirety click here.