Dermanyssus gallinae

Dermanyssus gallinae
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Subclass: Acari
Order: Mesostigmata
Family: Dermanyssidae
Genus: Dermanyssus
Species: D. gallinae
Binomial name
Dermanyssus gallinae
(De Geer, 1778)
Dermanyssus gallinae
Classification and external resources
Specialty infectious disease
ICD-10 B88.0 (ILDS B88.060)

Dermanyssus gallinae (also known as the red mite, poultry mite, red poultry mite, roost mite and chicken mite) is an ectoparasite of poultry and has been implicated as a vector of several major pathogenic diseases.[1] Despite its common names, it has a wide range of hosts including several species of wild birds and mammals including humans.[2] In both size and appearance, it resembles the northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum.[3]


D. gallinae is an obligate blood feeder that will normally attack its host at night, but will occasionally feed during the day. Adults (0.75–1 mm long) have long legs and usually a grayish- white body, which becomes reddish-brown when engorged.[4] After feeding, they hide in cracks and crevices away from light sources, where they mate and lay eggs. The mite progresses through 5 life stages: egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph and adult. Under favourable conditions this life cycle can be completed within seven days, so populations can grow rapidly - causing anaemia in badly affected flocks of poultry. Young birds are most susceptible. The mites can also affect the health of the birds indirectly, as they may serve as vectors for diseases such as Salmonellosis, avian spirochaetosis and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae.[5] Red mites can survive for up to 10 months in an empty hen house, temperatures greater than 45 °C/113 °F and less than -20 °C/-4 °F, have been found to be lethal.[6]

Clinical signs and diagnosis

The mites normally feed around the breast and legs of hens, causing pain, irritation, and a decrease in egg production. Pustules, scabs, hyperpigmentation and feather loss may develop.

If they are present in large numbers, D. gallinae can cause anemia in hens which presents as pallor of the comb and wattle.

A presumptive diagnosis can be made in flocks of laying hens, usually based on a history of decreasing egg production, anaemia and mortalities in young or ill birds. Blood spots on eggs indicate infestation within the cloaca of an affected hen. Definitive diagnosis is only achieved following identification of eggs, feces or the mites themselves.

Infestation prevention and treatment

There are several methods for preventing infestation in hen houses including:

  • Heating the henhouse to temperatures above 55 °C/131 °F.
  • Regular washing down of the housing system.
  • Treatment of the walls and floors with silica dust or carbolineum prior to introduction of the new hens.[7]

Prevention of infestation in human habitation consists of eliminating potential vectors such as destroying pigeon and sparrow nests[8] and treating infested backyard poultry.[9]

Predatory mites such as Androlaelaps casalis and Hypoaspis miles can be used to control D. gallinae populations.[10] Ectoparasiticides can be used to treat affected poultry, these chemical controls, if used, should be used in rotation to avoid the buildup of resistance.[11] The insecticide spinosad is effective against mites resistant to the veteran acaricides and can even be used on premises in the presence of the laying hens.[12] A novel product, Exzolt was introduced in the EU in 2017,[13] it contains fluralaner, an isoxazoline, and is highly effective against D. gallinae, included those resistant to old acaricides. It is approved for oral administration mixed with the drinking water and has a systemic mode of action, i.e. it acts through the blood of the treated birds.[14]

Elimination of an infestation in a human habitation is best achieved through a combination of eliminating potential vectors (nesting pigeons, backyard poultry, etc.); reducing potential hiding places (rugs, clutter); judicious use of pesticides; consistent use of dehumidifiers to maintain a low humidity environment; maintaining a low temperature in the environment; frequent thorough cleaning; minimizing the amount of time spent in the home; and maintaining excellent hygiene. Treatment of infestation may require topical and oral medication such as ivermectin (although this has been found to be ineffective)[15] and may require several months to eradicate.

Vaccines are currently under active development for the treatment of poultry, which seek to "stimulate a protective response" in the birds and increase D. gallinae mortality.[16]

Disease in other animals and humans

D. gallinae will also bite mammals, including cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits, horses,[17] and humans, where the infestation is known as gamasoidosis.[18] As they are capable of digesting mammalian including human blood, infestations can be persistent.[17] Due to the nocturnal feeding habits of D. gallinae, people bitten by commonly feel itchy and notice bites when they wake up in the morning.[19] The severity of the signs vary, with dermatitis,[20] pruritus and papular urticaria being common symptoms.[18]

Jane Ishka recited her experience with human mite infestation in her book The Year of the Mite.[21]

Infestation by D. gallinae is rare in cats and dogs; usually the extremities and the back are bitten, causing itching.[22]

See also


  1. Desloire, Sophie; Valiente Moro, Claire; Chauve, Claude; Zenner, Lionel (2006-07-06). "Comparison of four methods of extracting DNA fromD. gallinae(Acari: Dermanyssidae)". Veterinary Research. 37 (5): 725–732. doi:10.1051/vetres:2006031. ISSN 0928-4249.
  2. Sparagano, O. a. E.; George, D. R.; Harrington, D. W. J.; Giangaspero, A. (2014). "Significance and control of the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae". Annual Review of Entomology. 59: 447–466. doi:10.1146/annurev-ento-011613-162101. ISSN 1545-4487. PMID 24397522.
  3. Weisbroth, Steven H. (1960). "The Differentiation of Dermanyssus gallinae from Ornithonyssus sylviarum". Avian Diseases. 4 (2): 133–137. doi:10.2307/1587499. JSTOR 1587499.
  4. "Dermanyssidae - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  5. Chirico J, Eriksson H, Fossum O, Jansson D (June 2003). "The poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, a potential vector of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae causing erysipelas in hens". Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 17 (2): 232–4. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2915.2003.00428.x. PMID 12823843.
  6. Nordenfors, H.; Höglund, J.; Uggla, A. (1999). "Effects of temperature and humidity on oviposition, molting, and longevity of Dermanyssus gallinae (Acari: Dermanyssidae)". Journal of Medical Entomology. 36 (1): 68–72. ISSN 0022-2585. PMID 10071495.
  7. Mul, Monique F.; Koenraadt, Constantianus J. M. (2009-06-01). "Preventing introduction and spread of Dermanyssus gallinae in poultry facilities using the HACCP method". Experimental and Applied Acarology. 48 (1-2): 167–181. doi:10.1007/s10493-009-9250-6. ISSN 0168-8162.
  8. Bellanger, A. P.; Bories, C.; Foulet, F.; Bretagne, S.; Botterel, F. (2008). "Nosocomial Dermatitis Caused by Dermanyssus gallinae". Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. 29 (3): 282–283. doi:10.1086/528815. ISSN 0899-823X.
  9. Whitehead, M. L.; Roberts, V. (2014-08-11). "Backyard poultry: legislation, zoonoses and disease prevention". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 55 (10): 487–496. doi:10.1111/jsap.12254. ISSN 0022-4510.
  10. Lesna, Izabela; Sabelis, Maurice W.; van Niekerk, Thea G. C. M.; Komdeur, Jan (2012). "Laboratory tests for controlling poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) with predatory mites in small 'laying hen' cages". Experimental & Applied Acarology. 58 (4): 371–383. doi:10.1007/s10493-012-9596-z. ISSN 1572-9702. PMC 3487000. PMID 22773110.
  11. "The poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae (De Geer, 1778): current situation and future prospects for control". Veterinary Parasitology. 79 (3): 239–245. 1998-11-16. doi:10.1016/S0304-4017(98)00167-8. ISSN 0304-4017.
  12. "In vitro and in vivo acaricidal activity and residual toxicity of spinosad to the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae". Veterinary Parasitology. 173 (3-4): 307–316. 2010-10-29. doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2010.06.035. ISSN 0304-4017.
  13. Brauneis, Maria D.; Zoller, Hartmut; Williams, Heike; Zschiesche, Eva; Heckeroth, Anja R. (2017-12-02). "The acaricidal speed of kill of orally administered fluralaner against poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) on laying hens and its impact on mite reproduction". Parasites & Vectors. 10. doi:10.1186/s13071-017-2534-5. ISSN 1756-3305. PMC 5712167. PMID 29197422.
  14. Brauneis, Maria D.; Zoller, Hartmut; Williams, Heike; Zschiesche, Eva; Heckeroth, Anja R. (2017-12-02). "The acaricidal speed of kill of orally administered fluralaner against poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) on laying hens and its impact on mite reproduction". Parasites & Vectors. 10: 594. doi:10.1186/s13071-017-2534-5. ISSN 1756-3305. PMC 5712167. PMID 29197422.
  15. "Systemic efficacy of ivermectin against Dermanyssus gallinae (De Geer, 1778) in fowls". Veterinary Parasitology. 23 (1-2): 141–146. 1987-01-01. doi:10.1016/0304-4017(87)90032-X. ISSN 0304-4017.
  16. "Immunisation with recombinant proteins subolesin and Bm86 for the control of Dermanyssus gallinae in poultry". Vaccine. 27 (30): 4056–4063. 2009-06-19. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.04.014. ISSN 0264-410X.
  17. 1 2 George DR, Finn RD, Graham KM, Mul MF, Maurer V, Moro CV, Sparagano OA (March 2015). "Should the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae be of wider concern for veterinary and medical science?". Parasites & Vectors. 8: 178. doi:10.1186/s13071-015-0768-7. PMC 4377040. PMID 25884317.
  18. 1 2 James WD, Berger T, Elston D (2015). "Parasitic infestations, stings and bites: Gamasoidosis". Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (12 ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 446. ISBN 9780323319690.
  19. Kos L, Galbraith S (2011). "Infections and infestations". In Schachner LA, Hansen RC. Pediatric dermatology (4th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby/Elsevier. pp. 1576–1578. ISBN 9780723436652.
  20. Rosen, S.; Yeruham, I.; Braverman, Y. (December 2002). "Dermatitis in humans associated with the mites Pyemotes tritici, Dermanyssus gallinae, Ornithonyssus bacoti and Androlaelaps casalis in Israel". Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 16 (4): 442–444. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2915.2002.00386.x. ISSN 0269-283X.
  21. Ishka, Jane (2016-02-04). The Year of the Mite. Bitingduck Press. ISBN 9781938463433.
  22. Paterson S (2009). "Dermanyssus gallinae". Manual of skin diseases of the dog and cat (2nd ed.). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 118–119. ISBN 9781444309324.
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