Skin-associated Bacillus, staphylococcal and micrococcal species from the house dust mite, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and bacteriolytic enzymes

Vivian Tang, Barbara Chang, Ambuja Srinivasan, Leslie Mathaba, G.B. Harnett, Geoffrey Stewart

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Dust mites produce bacteriolytic enzymes, one of which belongs to the NlpC/P60 superfamily comprising bacterial and fungal proteins. Whether this enzyme is derived from the mite or from mite-associated microbes is unclear. To this end, the bacteriology of mites per se, and carpet and mattress dust from a group of asthmatic children and their parents was investigated. Dust from parents’ and children’s mattresses yielded significantly more colony forming units compared with dust from their corresponding carpets. Zymography demonstrated some dusts contained bacteriolytic enzymes, and in nine of the twelve dust samples from three of five houses examined, a prominent bacteriolytic band was obtained that corresponded to the mite band, although in one home, other lytic bands were detected. Fifty bacterial isolates were obtained from surface-sterilised, commercially obtained Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus. 16S rRNA, tuf and rpoB gene sequencing of nine Gram-positive isolates identified them as Bacillus cereus, B. licheniformis, Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, S. capitis and Micrococcus luteus, known human skin commensals. 16S rRNA sequence homologies of four of the nine isolates identified as B. licheniformis formed a distinct phylogenetic cluster. All species secreted lytic enzymes during culture although the lytic profiles obtained differed between the rods and the cocci, and none of the bands detected corresponded to those observed in dust or mites. In conclusion, mites harbour a variety of bacterial species often associated with human skin and house dusts contain bacteriolytic enzymes that may be mite-derived. The identification of a novel cluster of B. licheniformis isolates suggests an ecological adaptation to laboratory-reared D. pteronyssinus. It remains to be determined whether the previously described mite-associated 14 K lytic enzyme is derived from a microbial source.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-447
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number4
Early online date20 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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