More Research Needed
Right now, the idea that mites may cause at least some cases of rosacea is still just a theory. But experts who were not involved in the research say there's convincing evidence to back it up.
"It's not far-fetched at all," says Michele Green, MD, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It makes perfect sense to me."
Green says the mite theory fits many features of the disease. She says many people with rosacea notice that their skin gets worse after exposure to heat and humidity, conditions that also help mites thrive.
Pharmaceutical companies also think there's something to the idea. Galderma, the company that makes Metrogel, a topical antibiotic often prescribed to treat rosacea, is reportedly testing a product that targets Demodex mites.
"There may be some cutting-edge technologies that come out of this that may work extremely well," Green says. "They may be a lot safer and better than just taking oral antibiotics."
Other experts agree that the evidence is compelling, but say it's too early to tell whether Demodex mites are a cause or a consequence of rosacea.
"This study contains evidence, but it's not proof," says John E. Wolf Jr., MD, professor and chairman of the department of dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
"This theory is not a fringe theory," Wolf says. "Almost everybody with a serious interest in rosacea feels that it's a serious possibility and a serious question that deserves attention. More studies should be done to try to definitively answer the question."