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Allergies Health Center

Dust Mites: Is Resistance Futile?

Decimating Dust Mites Doesn't Stop Asthma, but Doctors Not Deterred
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Mite Resistance Not Futile, Allergists Say

Even though researchers were able to significantly reduce dust-mite allergens in several studies, Gotzsche and Johansen note that this did not help people's asthma.

"The explanation that we find most plausible for the lack of effect of the interventions is, therefore, that the methods we have reviewed do not adequately reduce mite antigen levels," they write. "Mite-sensitive asthmatic patients are usually sensitive to other allergens, so that successful elimination of only one allergen may have limited benefit, whatever its success."

That last phrase is key, says allergist Leonard Bielory, MD, director of the asthma research center at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark.

"Getting rid of dust mites alone is not the answer," Bielory tells WebMD. "When we discover that patients have dust-mite allergy, we tell them it is rarely just dust mites."

Allergist Jonathan A. Bernstein, MD, of the University of Cincinnati, bristles at the suggestion that mite resistance is futile for allergic people.

"You have to recognize that people can be sensitive to multiple allergens -- as well as to non-allergic triggers such as odorants, irritating chemicals, tobacco smoke, mildew, and things of that nature," Bernstein tells WebMD. "So these studies with just one or even two or three interventions are fraught with limitations. Just to target dust mites and then to say these interventions don't work is out of context with patients' real lives."

Over time, Bielory and Bernstein insist, reducing allergens in the home and in the office will help patients suffering from dust-mite allergy and asthma. They say reducing dust mites is a good place to start.

How to Fight the Mite

It's really not feasible to permanently rid your house of dust mites, says Greg Baumann, senior scientist for the National Pest Management Association.

"They are here to stay for sure," Baumann tells WebMD. "The pest control industry really does not deal with dust mites because there are so few products out there professionals can use. They are very, very hard to control. You do not have any magic wand to wave."

Entomologist Ron Harrison, PhD, director of training for the pest-control firm Orkin Inc., agrees with Baumann.

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