House Dust Mites book cover
House Dust mites_cover

Medical entomology Other arthropods Pest control Publications

Rob de Boer

Academic Press (Elsevier Inc.)


ISBN: 9780443191114

Reviewed by Ian Burgess

This book, based on years of working with house dust mites (HDM), is one that Rob de Boer did not have the opportunity to write until after his retirement in 2012.  His aim was to summarise numerous studies from around the world and place them into a succinct context in relation to their impact on allergic disease.  In that, he has generally succeeded, covering the various elements of house dust biology in relation to environmental factors.  However, I did find it curious that, to my mind, the book is a little back-to-front in its layout.

If you are not familiar with mites in general, irrespective of their position in the world, I would think an introduction to the animals themselves, their anatomy and life cycle, is the first step.  However, this side of mites, and HDM specifically, does not appear until Chapter 7, although some explanations of anatomical terminology and behavioural aspects of biology are included in the earlier chapters – a duplication that could have been avoided.  In a similar manner, different aspects of allergenicity, environmental effects, and control of HDM are scattered across different chapters.  Nevertheless, these quirks are liveable with.

What I found most disruptive was that some figures do not appear close to their first reference, even if there is space for them to do so and, in a couple cases, figures in other chapters are referenced, requiring flicking through the text.  Similarly, tables are not necessarily close to their accompanying text.

Numerous studies of the impact of environmental factors on HDM biology are cited, with brief data extracts from most. Unfortunately, these are not critically reviewed, so in most cases we don’t know whether the author understood them to be well designed or they had just been taken at face value.  In a couple of cases, there are curious “calculations” derived from the data, e.g., it is stated that “quiescent protonymphs of D. farina consumed O2 at a rate that was 28.5 times less than the consumption of active protonymphs”.  Apart from this number not appearing in the original, and no indication of how it was calculated, the actual figure is nonsense – you cannot get “28.5 times less” of something because there is no way to calculate it. Maybe he means 28.5% of the rate of consumption?  This is only a minor point, but it did make me suspicious of the extensive numerical estimates given in Chapter 8 devoted to modelling HDM populations under different conditions, as well as figures on intrinsic rates of population growth in some of the appendices that take up the last 40 pages of text.

These issues aside, given that research on HDM has declined over the past decade, mostly through lack of commercial and other funding, it does serve as useful background reading for anyone interested in working afresh in the field.  Sad to say, most of the references are quite old and most of the cited researchers are now retired or gone, but perhaps that is just a reflection of the parlous state that much of medical entomology/acarology has reached.  Hopefully, this book with stimulate some fresh interest.

House Dust Mites book cover