Taxonomic classification of the family Trombiculidae.
Trombiculid mites (Acari: Trombiculidae) are distributed worldwide ectoparasites of a wide range of vertebrates. More than 50 species are known to bite humans, and about 20 have medical importance. The larval stages (chiggers) of the genus Leptotrombidium are vectors of Orientia tsutsugamushi, causative agent of scrub typhus. This life-threatening disease is widely endemic in Asian Pacific regions where more than one billion people are at risk of acquiring the infection and around one million new cases are estimated to occur annually. In addition, although underreported and often misdiagnosed, trombiculiasis, defined as a dermatitis caused by the salivary secretion of biting chiggers, is present in America and Europe.
- Orientia tsutsugamushi
This chapter includes a thorough description of the main characteristics, life cycle, and distribution of chiggers. Moreover, a comprehensive review of the responsibility of chiggers as infectious disease vectors and agents of troublesome dermatitis is given. The following pages cover, for the first time in a unique chapter, the current knowledge of chigger mites.
1.1. Taxonomy and distribution
Trombiculid mites (Acari: Trombiculidae) are widespread ectoparasites of a wide range of vertebrates. More than 50 species have been recorded attacking humans, and about 20 of them are considered to be medically important because they cause dermatitis or due to their role as vectors of human pathogens. The most relevant species are
Trombiculids are distributed worldwide, but they show their greatest diversity in the subtropical, tropical and southern temperate zones . Table 2 shows the main trombiculid species and their geographical distribution.
|Hungary, Spain, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Sumatra, Malaysia, and Africa||Trombiculiasis|
|Canada, South of United States (except for the southwest), South and Central America (including West Indies)||Trombiculiasis|
|Bolivia, Mexico, Central and South America, southwestern and southeastern United States||Trombiculiasis|
|United States: from Alabama and Tennessee West to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas||Trombiculiasis|
|Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands||Trombiculiasis|
|Eastern United States (from the Gulf Coast North to Massachusetts, Minnesota) and Ontario||Trombiculiasis|
|Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Pacific Islands||Trombiculiasis|
|Italia, Austria, and Bulgaria||Trombiculiasis|
|Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Philippines, and New Guinea||Scrub typhus|
|Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand||Scrub typhus|
|China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, southwestern Pacific Islands, northern Australia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan||Scrub typhus|
|Southeast Asia, Malaysia, New Guinea, Philippines, Indonesia, and Melanesia||Scrub typhus|
|Japan, Korea, and Primorye region of Russia||Scrub typhusa|
|Japan, Korea, and Primorye region of Russia||Scrub typhus|
|Japan, Korea, and Primorye region of Russia||Scrub typhusa|
|Siberia and Primorye region of Russia||Scrub typhus|
|Japan, northern China, Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia||Scrub typhus|
|Europe (including British Isles, excluding Norway, Sweden, Finland, and northern Russia), Turkey, and Turkmenistan||Trombiculiasis|
|Spain, Czech Republic, England, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, France, states of former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland||Trombiculiasis|
|Korea, Europe||Scrub typhusa|
|Japan, China, and Russia||Trombiculiasis|
|Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands||Trombiculiasis|
|Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands||Trombiculiasis|
Members of this family are known by several names depending on their distribution (Table 3). They are often confused with other mites or insects and are mistakenly named as Mower’s mites [common name of
|Harvest bug, harvest mite, harvest lice, red bug, red mite, berry mite, scrub-itch mite||North-America, Asia|
|Aoutats, rouget, bête rouge||France|
|Bicho colorado, coloradilla, ácaro rojo||South America|
1.2. Life cycle
Trombiculid mites undergo seven stages in their life cycle: egg, deutovum, larva, protonymph, deutonymph, tritonymph, and adult (Figure 1). This cycle is characterized by alternating active and inactive instars, being the larva, deutonymph, and adult the active ones. Active postlarval stages are soil dwellers that prey on various arthropods and their eggs. Deutonymphs look almost identical to adult mites. Both present eight legs, but deutonymphs are slightly smaller. Sexual dimorphism is not apparently evident . Larvae parasitize all groups of vertebrates, except fishes, whereas the small mammals and birds are the main hosts [1,5,19,24]. There are just a few reports of chiggers feeding on invertebrates . Humans are only accidental hosts. However, the question of the host specificity of trombiculids still arises. Most likely, trombiculids are associated with specific habitats and attack and feed on the first available animal within their favorite habitat, although they can have preference for a particular host among the available ones [23,25].
During their life cycle, eggs are laid in well-drained soil, and six-legged larvae emerge from them. The general term “chigger” refers to the parasitic larval stage, and this is the name commonly given to trombiculid mites due to the importance of this instar. Chiggers are usually reddish but can vary between yellow and orange [1,26]. These tiny larvae (about 200 µm) climb onto low vegetation, where they aggregate into clusters to wait for a suitable host. On the host, chiggers mainly move to areas where the skin is especially thin and feed on lymph and tissue fluids of the dermal layer (but not blood). Ears, head, armpits, abdomen, genitalia, and the area around the tail are preferred in animals [4,27]. In humans, bites occur mainly in body exposed areas and at sites where the clothing constricts [17,28]. Once engorged (development to subsequent stage cannot take place unless larvae have fed on the host), larvae fall to the ground and develop to the nymphal stages and subsequently to adults (900–1,200 µm).
Trombiculid mites live in moist soil covered with vegetation such as grassy and weedy areas. In general, optimal living conditions require a relative air humidity of 80% (what explains that chiggers are not typically found on vegetation higher than 30 cm off the ground) and neutral to slightly alkaline soil. The optimum activity of chiggers occurs at temperatures of 25–30°C [26,29].
Trombiculid mites often form localized “mite islands” (or “mite focus”, “larvae focus”) in suitable areas inhabited by potential hosts . Therefore, chiggers have a patchy distribution on the vegetation. Mite islands are quite clearly defined, and larvae could not be detected in their immediate vicinity [26,31]. A possible explanation for this focalization may be that chiggers apparently do not move more than a few meters from where they hatched. Chiggers would temporarily disperse if a host approached. On the contrary, if physical contact were not managed or if the host were not close enough for them to drop on it, chiggers would invariably and promptly return to the cluster and would continue waiting .
The life cycle of trombiculid mites has been mainly studied in the laboratory. The most outstanding feature of the life cycle is the constant duration of quiescent periods and the variable duration of active stages. Trombiculid mites usually have one generation per year, but with overlapping generations, each well synchronized with the seasons because they can overwinter in most stages (egg, larva, deutonynph, and adult) and because the adult mites have a long life span . In boreal species, an egg-to-egg cycle ranges from 150 to 400 days, but it is shorter in tropical species . In nature, the life cycle is supposed to be completed in 2–12 months or longer, depending on the species and environmental conditions. In temperate areas, there may be 1 to 3 generations per year, whereas in tropical regions the life cycle is shorter and continuous throughout the year . In Europe, the duration has been estimated in five to seven months under favorable conditions .
As mentioned above, trombiculid mites only act as parasites during their larval stage. Thus, the greatest attention has been paid to chiggers. In addition, adults and deutonymphs of the majority of trombiculid species have never been observed on the soil surface (in fact, their habitats are mostly unknown). Therefore, the taxonomy of trombiculid mites is based solely on their larvae . It is estimated that only the postlarval stage of less than 10% of the total of Trombiculidae species are known . This is the case of some tropical species in contrast to the difficulty of finding active postlarval instars in northern countries .
1.3. Feeding process
It is well known that when feeding on hosts, chiggers develop a characteristic feeding tube (stylostome) in the host’s skin. The stylostome is mostly formed of the larval salivary secretions solidifying in the host’s epidermis . Larva cuts the stratum corneum with its rather short chelicerae and stylostome allows chigger to reach the underlying connective tissue layer from which it obtains nutrients. The host’s tissues around the stylostome are destroyed and necrotized. Beneath the distal end of the stylostome, an interstitial food cavity containing lymphoid and epithelioid cellular liquid elements is formed . The feeding period in animal host, both in nature and reared in the laboratory, usually lasts 3–6 days [26,35]. However, feeding on humans may typically vary from 3 - 8 h to 1–2 days for most non-infectious chiggers, but 2–10 days for scrub typhus vectors [1,29,36,37]. It is supposed that more than 6 h are required for the transmission of the bacterium . During this period, the larva remains on the skin surface. For this reason, most trombiculid larvae can be classified as ectoparasites. Larvae of some genera, however, can partly or even entirely embed within the skin of different body cavities frequently forming various types of capsules during feeding on amphibians and mammals . In such cases, the feeding time is prolonged up to several weeks or even months. In lizards, specific adaptive structures of skin, known as “mite pockets”, may evolve to decrease the possible damage from mite feeding . It is generally thought that the organization and location of stylostome is species specific in trombiculid larvae, irrespectively of the host species and of the particular feeding site on the host, whereas the length of the stylostome is mostly a result of the width of the epidermal layer and the presence or absence of scabs at the attachment site .
2. Chiggers as vectors of infectious diseases
Although different microorganisms have been detected in different species of chiggers, their role as vectors of infectious diseases has been only demonstrated for scrub typhus.
2.1. Scrub typhus
Scrub typhus or tsutsugamushi disease [from Japanese words meaning disease (
The disease was widely reported in soldiers during World War II  and now is an important illness for travelers to the endemic regions . More than half (55%) of the world population lives in areas where scrub typhus is endemic, so over one billion people are at risk of acquiring the infection . Approximately one million new cases have been estimated to occur annually . However, this is surely an underestimation because recognition of the disease is difficult due to its overlapping clinical spectrum with other common causes of fever in this population, the lack of awareness among affected people, and the limitations of current diagnostic methods .
2.1.1. Etiology and epidemiology
The etiological agent of scrub typhus,
There are three prototype strains: Gilliam, Karp, and Kato; however, more than 20 antigenically distinct serotypes are present in endemic areas , and currently over 70 strains of
Chiggers act as reservoir and vector of
Endemic regions are characterized by rice fields, scrubland, and the presence of primary deforestation [55,56]. Chiggers harboring the bacterium bite exposed individuals in vulnerable niches such as forests and infested undergrowth during occupational or recreational activities.
Several studies suggest the evidence of human infection with more than one strain of
Seasonal occurrence of scrub typhus is determined by the time of appearance of chiggers because humans are infected through bites of the larva. In temperate zones, scrub typhus season is observed mainly in the autumn but also in the spring . More than 45 species of trombiculid mites are known to be infected with
Scrub typhus is confined to a 13,000,000-km2 definite geographic region, the “tsutsugamushi triangle,” where it is widely distributed (Figure 3). It extends from northern Japan, Korea, and far-eastern Russia in the North, to northern Australia in the South and to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the West, as well as the islands of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, including Taiwan, Philippines, New Guinea, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka .
Several reports of scrub cases typhus-like infections have been described in unusual areas, indicating that a wider geographic distribution should be taken into account . Thus, the recent isolation of
The disease is considered rural, and the risk of infection is closely related to occupation. In areas where scrub typhus is prevalent, most cases are acquired through agricultural exposure. Most travel acquired cases of scrub typhus are associated with outdoor activities such as camping, rafting, or trekking in endemic areas . Outbreaks related to military operations have been reported . The impact of scrub typhus in pregnancy is less explored. Acute scrub typhus can be transmitted vertically but congenital malformation due to infection
2.1.2. Clinical features and pathogenesis
Scrub typhus ranges in severity from mild and self-limiting to fatal depending on the duration of the illness, the strain of
The fever appears abruptly frequently accompanied by headache, myalgia, and malaise, with peaks on the 3rd–4th day of the disease and persists for more than 3 weeks in untreated cases. About a week after the onset of the symptoms, the eschar, which is not always present, is developed. It represents localized cutaneous necrosis at the site of mite feeding and is a typical scrub typhus marker, which is considered almost diagnostic . It starts as a small papule that enlarges and subsequently undergoes central necrosis, and it eventually acquires a blackened crust with an erythematous halo that resembles a cigarette burn (Figure 4).
The common sites for finding an eschar are trunk, arms, and legs, but it also appears on the scalp, axilla, genitalia, waist, and other exposed parts of the body [14,49]. The prevalence of eschars in patients diagnosed by scrub typhus ranges from 7% to 97% [67,70]. These differences may be may be due to the difficulty in detecting small eschars in dark-skinned individuals and atypical appearance of eschars in areas of damp and moist skin. Multiple eschars have been reported in 0.6% to 2.2% of patients with confirmed scrub typhus . Uncommonly, a maculopapular rash with centrifugal distribution may appear a week after the onset of these symptoms, starting on the chest, abdomen, or whole trunk and spreading to the limbs. Rash lasts a few days to a week [13,71]. Regional lymphadenopathy, characterized by tenderness and enlargement of the draining lymph node around the primary eschar, arises at the end of the first week after the disease onset . Generalized lymphadenopathy appears 2–3 days later in some cases .
From the second week onwards, a proportion of patients (especially those untreated) will evidence of severe systemic infection. The extended vasculitis helps to explain the great diversity of clinical manifestations that have been described . Respiratory symptoms, including interstitial pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and pulmonary edema, are frequent. In fact, about 40% of scrub typhus patients complain of cough at the time of admission. Gastrointestinal symptoms comprise nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal bleeding. Alterations in liver function and pancreatitis are also common. The central nervous system (CNS) is frequently affected. Indeed,
At the beginning of the infection,
The basic histopathologic findings reveal multiplication of
2.1.3. Diagnosis and treatment
Due to the severity of
As in other infectious diseases, the gold standard of the diagnosis of scrub typhus is the isolation of the etiological agent by culture. Isolation of
The mainstay in scrub typhus diagnostics remains serology [79,80]. Nevertheless, despite their widespread use, all currently available serologic tests have limitations. The Weil–Felix OX-K agglutination reaction was the earliest serological tests used for clinical diagnosis of scrub typhus. It is inexpensive, easy to perform, and results are available overnight; however, it lacks specificity and sensitivity . To date, the gold standard assay for the serologic detection of scrub typhus antibodies is the indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) . Most frequently, IFA uses antigen from serotypes Karp, Kato, and Gilliam . IFA is sensitive, and results are available in a couple of hours. Although it is accepted that a ≥4-fold increase in antibody titer between two consecutive samples (acute and convalescent-phase) is diagnostic, this is a retrospective diagnosis and cannot guide initial treatment . Anyway, IFA is expensive and requires a level of technical expertise and equipment that may not be available in rural areas. Indirect immunoperoxidase is an alternative that eliminates the expense of a fluorescent microscope by substituting peroxidase for fluorescein .
The development of PCR amplification-based approaches have been incorporated to the diagnoses of infectious diseases even in nonreference laboratories. PCR has potential benefits in detecting
The diagnosis and subsequently the antibiotic treatment are often missed or made late due to the lack of effective commercially available diagnostic tests and the lack of specificity of the early clinical presentation. It is important to remark that treatment must begin whenever scrub typhus is clinically suspected, without waiting for microbiological confirmation. It is well known that delayed treatment leads to complications such as adult respiratory distress syndrome, disseminated intravascular coagulation, acute renal failure, meningitis, meningoencephalitis, and gastrointestinal tract bleeding . Bacterial proliferation and the time of antibiotic treatment are very important predictors of lethality.
The clinical discrimination of scrub typhus from other undifferentiated fevers is often very difficult because the clinical symptoms are similar. In patients presenting an eschar and/or rash, and generalized or regional lymphadenopathy in a endemic area, scrub typhus should be considered in the differential diagnosis along with rickettsialpox, Mediterranean spotted fever, dengue, leptospirosis, and murine typhus [55,71].
Mortality in the pre-antibiotic era was variable and in some series approached 60%, but specific and effective antimicrobial chemotherapy is now available . Doxycycline and chloramphenicol are both effective oral or intravenous agents against scrub typhus, dissipating fever in 24 h in most patients . Although the disease can be treated effectively with these antibiotics, reinfection and relapse frequently occur due to the wide variety of antigenically distinct serotypes . Azithromycin and rifampicin are alternative drugs .
Currently, effective chemoprophylaxis or vaccination approaches for dealing with
2.2. Other chigger-borne infectious diseases
There are a lot of references in the old scientific literature that associate chiggers with the transmission of several pathogens, being
Several rickettsiae previously found in humans as
Chiggers are also suspected to be vectors of viral diseases . The role of
3. Chiggers and dermatitis
“Trombiculiasis,” also called “trombiculosis,” “trombidiosis,” “chigger dermatitis,” “scrub itch,” or “seasonal dermatitis” is defined as an skin allergic reaction (dermatitis) caused by the salivary secretion of biting chiggers [1,99]. In our experience, as well as it is described in the literature, trombiculiasis is a common but underreported ectoparasitosis that is probably often misdiagnosed . In many cases, trombiculiasis was primarily confused with a plant allergy , as it was the case in our country. The better understanding of trombiculid mites’ life cycle and their interaction with humans have made possible a proper knowledge of this disease.
3.1. Etiology and epidemiology
Although not often reported in the literature, trombiculiasis is prevalent all over the world, except for the Arctic region . However, it can be easily missed because it is normally transient and no systemic signs are present.
In nontropical areas, bites are particularly common in the late summer and early autumn, when outdoor activities are maximal and the peak of abundance of chiggers occurs [19,20,26,28,101]. Thus, trombiculiasis is also an important threat to travelers that visit infested areas being unaware of chiggers .
Mite islands are usually found in cleared land and scrub bush with grassy vegetation, warm soil temperatures, and high humidity. Suitable habitats also require the presence of potential hosts . Trombiculids are also found in parks, gardens, lawns, and moist areas alongside lakes and streams . Clusters of chiggers are usually waiting at elevated points of the ground-level vegetation, such as the end of grass stalk or on dried tree branches, until an animal or human passes by  (Figure 5).
People are usually bitten during outdoor activities for recreational or professional purposes such as hunting, hiking, mushroom picking, forestry work, etc. [8,28,101]. Although the rate of people bitten is very high, apparently some persons are preferred by the chiggers, resulting in massive parasitization, while others remain unmolested even in highly infested areas [26,28].
More than 3,000 species of chiggers are known, but about 15 frequently bite humans and domestic animals causing cutaneous reactions  (Table 2). Species currently considered as the most frequent cause of trombiculiasis are
Seven chigger species are proven to cause trombiculiasis in Europe:
Although well known in many European regions, the scientific description of trombiculiasis cases have been only reported from Italy  and Spain . Moreover, four different cases suspected of trombiculiasis caused by
In Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, the main involved mite is
A single case of trombiculiasis has been reported in Africa.
It is generally accepted that to suffer from trombiculiasis, the antecedent of direct contact with vegetation is required. Nevertheless, it is important to remark that one of the patients reported in Guarneri
Another example of disease caused by chiggers but without direct contact to vegetation is also a case of conjunctivitis induced by
Previously, patients were rarely referred for dermatologist review unless symptoms were severe. Over the last 15 years, cases of severe trombiculiasis have increased in western Germany and in the United Kingdom [31,107]. The influence of climate and environmental variations, changes in leisure habits, and broader environmental awareness in the population have been speculated as possible explanations of this increase .
3.2. Clinical manifestation
Chigger bites are initially painless, and frequently the only sign of exposure is a severe itching. Then small, red bite like lesions appears on the skin [1,19]. Typical 1–2 mm diameter, pruritic, erythematous papules appear at the sites of the bites 3–24 h after exposure (Figure 7). [10,28,37,101,103].
The presence of papulovesicles, which may gradually progress to pustules, crusty, scabby, eczematous, and ulcerated confluent forms of skin lesions, has also been described [17,26,103]. The pruritus is very intense, especially at night in bed. Although the chigger is not present, the papules and discomfort may persist up to 2–3 weeks, but regression of localized itching is generally observed in 1 week . Since trombiculid mites share habitat with hard ticks, people may result coinfested. In fact, a patient suffering from trombiculiasis and having an “erythema migrans” (related to Lyme disease) was treated in our hospital. Furthermore, during an episode of trombiculiasis, two affected people and their dog had
Chiggers usually “attack” in large numbers due to the clustering phenomenon, resulting in multiple grouped bites on infested hosts . Given their preference for attaching where the skin is thin or in tighter contact with clothes, the bites tend to be concentrated around the knees, antecubital fossae, and ankles, thighs, axillary region, groins and genitalia, and wrists, and in areas constricted by clothing, such as along the belt line or the elastic borders or undergarments [1,17,26,28,101].
Trombiculiasis-causing chiggers do not survive more than 1–2 days feeding on humans due to the adverse host reaction and because they are remove by scratching [1,23]. The irritant effect of chiggers’ saliva seems to induce both dermal inflammatory reaction of moderate intensity and an adaptive immune response. These salivary components generally reveal relatively moderate lytic properties and weak immunological characters . The type of skin inflammatory response during the feeding of trombiculid larvae is determined by concomitant factors such as the site of the parasite localization, condition of the host’s skin, among others . Repeated exposures result in a more rapid and intense adaptive immune response . Anyway, permanent or long-term human residents in an infested area increase their immunity as a result of continued bites, and some people can develop a high degree of tolerance to the antigenic substances injected by chiggers. However, the occurrence of unusual outbreaks of urticaria, increasingly severe pruritus or bulla formation, are indications of hypersensitivity to such antigenic substances . It is clear that the natural hosts of trombiculids have to be sensitized with respect to parasites that may lead the development of the strong specific inflammatory response [39, 111].
3.3. Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis is based on the clinical manifestations, taking into consideration the history of being in contact with vegetation and the seasonality. As the etiological agent of the trombiculiasis is rarely found in the skin of the patients, these reactions are often misinterpreted and has been wrongly associated to plant allergies, flea or mosquito bites, or even scabies . Cutaneous findings are nonspecific, so clinical examination would probably lead to a wrong diagnosis of a nonspecific itchy dermatitis, leading to use inadequate or needless medications. Then an accurate anamnesis is essential for making such challenging diagnosis. Chigger bites should be considered whenever any unexplained skin eruption is presented to the physician.
Chiggers are not easily seen on human’s skin with the naked eye, and common magnification lenses and even dermoscopy (×10 magnifications) have some limitations. Recently, videodermatoscopy (×150 magnification) has been used to diagnose trombiculiasis caused by
Differential diagnosis includes infestations with other mite species (e.g., the itch mite
Treatment is primarily symptomatic and consists of antipruritics, antihistamines, and topical corticosteroids . In our medical consultation, supportive measures such as oatmeal baths are also highly recommended. Antibiotics might be needed in case bacterial superinfection resulting from repeated scratching occurs.
After being in known areas of chigger activity, the dermatitis can be minimized, and the recovery time can be significantly shortened, by taking a hot soapy shower or bath and washing clothes with soap and hot water. These good practices are recommended immediately after exposure, in order to remove both unattached and attached chiggers, before they have firmly anchored to the skin (generally within 3–6 h following attachment) [1,26]. Once the papules are present, scratching should be avoided in order to prevent to excoriate the lesions and the infection.
Patients should be advised on preventive measures, including avoidance of high-risk areas when larvae are active. Since in many cases these results are unreasonable and contact with trombiculid mites is unavoidable, chigger infestation may be minimized by wearing protective clothing and soaking socks and trouser legs with insect repellents . Usually, the use of repellent sprays and lotions containing benzyl benzoate or diethyltoluamide has been recommended . Permethrin was successfully used as a clothing treatment for personal protection against chigger mites . However, the active ingredient is no longer available for this purpose in the European Union [10,26].
Although better than before, our contemporary knowledge on the biology and ecology of these mites is still extremely limited. Currently, no reliable recommendations for the control of mites, except from personal protection, can be given .
4. Other human diseases associated to chiggers
Apart from trombiculiasis, chiggers are responsible for other less frequent conditions. The summer penile syndrome is a seasonal acute hypersensitivity reaction attributed to chigger bites [114,115]. It occurs in young boys with a history of bites or outdoor exposure, and it is characterized by the rapid onset of edema and pruritus of the penile skin. It has been described most commonly in the spring and summer in different regions of United States [114,115]. Another example is the unique case of conjunctivitis induced by
Chiggers are worldwide distributed ectoparasites that have to be taken into account as human pathogens. Their medical importance is based on their role as vectors of scrub typhus and as causative agents of trombiculiasis.
Scrub typhus remains as one of the most life-threatening infection in Asian Pacific regions. The development of a prophylactic vaccine against
More research studies are necessary in order to clarify the relationship of chiggers with other bacterial or viral infections.
Trombiculiasis is an extended but underreported condition that should be considered when pruritic dermatitis in people exposed to vegetation occurs. In risky areas, personal protection is the unique recommendation to reduce the parasitation. A deeper understanding of chiggers’ life cycle, epidemiology and seasonality of trombiculiasis is required for a correct management of this annoying dermatitis.
We are grateful to all members from the Centre of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases, Hospital San Pedro-Centre of Biomedical Research (CIBIR), Logroño (La Rioja), Spain. We also thank to Dr. Shatrov and Dr. Stekolnikov from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, St.-Petersburg, Russia, and Dr. Takahashi from the Saitama Medical University, Saitama, Japan, for providing us the pictures and for their invaluable help. Financial support was provided in part by two grants (FOMENTA 2007/14 and PREDOC 2008/29) from “Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deporte del Gobierno de La Rioja”, Spain.