Sarcoptes scabiei (De Geer) mites burrow in the nonliving stratum corneum of the epidermis of their mammalian hosts. These mites ingest extracellular fluid (serum) that seeps into the burrow from the lower vascular dermis. A strong host antibody response occurs when mites die in the skin. This suggests internal immunogenic proteins are released into the host at this time. Vaccination with internal antigens may be an approach to protect against this mite if host antibody to internal antigens that regulate key physiological processes is ingested along with serum. Our study clearly showed that scabies mites ingest host immunoglobulin as evidenced by the localization of fluorescent-labeled antibody to host immunoglobulin in the anterior midgut and esophagus of fresh mites removed from the host. This is the first study that demonstrates that this nonblood-feeding ectoparasitic mite ingests host antibody while feeding on tissue fluid that seeps into the stratum corneum.
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