UCL News


D-day for dust mites

14 December 2004

An investigation into the effects of housing design and occupant behaviour on dust mite levels in beds is being undertaken by researchers in UCL's Bartlett School of Graduate Studies.

House dust mite Headed by Professor Tadj Oreszczyn, the two-year study follows on from a previous project by the school which established a model for predicting dust mite population growth in beds, based on environmental factors such as heat and moisture.

The current stage of the EPSRC-funded project will develop the model for use in devising anti-mite strategies for a range of UK house types. The research is timely, as Miss Marcella Ucci, a researcher on the project explained: "Inhaled allergens derived from house dust mite faeces play a major role in allergic disease, especially in asthma. The number of people affected is rising throughout Europe, impairing the health and quality of life of a substantial proportion of children, as well as many adults."

Dust mites are present in most homes and thrive on soft furnishings and in particular beds. It is estimated that the average mattress can contain up to 1.5 million mites and up to 10 per cent of the weight of an old pillow could be made up of dust mite faeces. The project will monitor mite population growth in both the laboratory and 30 houses across the UK. For the field experiment, mites are placed in envelopes which are then attached to mattresses in the participating houses. The mites are unable to get out but moisture is able to get in; after six weeks the envelopes are collected and the mites counted. The results are then analysed in relation to climatic conditions, the design of the dwelling and occupant use.

It is hoped that the data from the experiment will provide building designers and engineers with enough information to create healthy homes and for healthcare workers to point out potential mite risk areas. "By helping to determine the most effective and affordable means of preventing mite infestation, the project is going to benefit the health and quality of life of those affected by mite-induced asthma and allergy and potentially prevent others from suffering in the future," explained Miss Ucci.

The UCL team is working in collaboration with the Martin Centre, University of Cambridge; Kingston University; entomological experts from Insect Research and Development Ltd and the Royal Agricultural College; as well as industrial partners who are providing equipment, facilities and analysis.

For more information on the project use the link below.

Link: Environmental control of house dust mites