Tiny Bugs Wreak Havoc; Report of Collembola as Human Parasites Supports Recent Research Findings

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A 1955 report to the medical literature, apparently overlooked or ignored, sheds new light on the National Pediculosis Association's efforts to alert the medical community and health officials to the ability of Collembola to infest humans.

Collembola, also known as springtails or snow fleas, are described in the authoritative "Biology of Springtails" by Hopkin as among the most widespread and abundant terrestrial arthropods on earth.

Collembola are referred to as the earliest fossil proof of insect life on the planet. Why should people care? Collembola are being found in human hair and skin. Infestations appear to be communicable from particular environmental conditions or from one person to another, and there is no known cure once a person is infested. And worse yet, people desperate for medical help with this problem are seldom taken seriously.

A 1955 report to the medical literature, apparently overlooked or ignored, sheds new light on the problem and the National Pediculosis Association's (NPA) efforts to alert the medical community and public health officials to the ability of Collembola to infest or colonize humans. (http://www.headlice.org/news/2005/0519.htm)

In 2004, the National Pediculosis Association reported Collembola in skin scrapings collected from 18 of 20 research participants in its study published in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society at http://www.headlice.org/news/2004/delusory.htm.

Some Collembola experts disagreed with the NPA's research findings, insisting that it was impossible for Collembola to live in human skin.

Deborah Altschuler, lead author of the NPA paper, likens the scenario of Collembola and humans to the discovery of Helicobacter (H.) pylori otherwise hidden in the stomach lining, and the erroneous yet long held assumption that the stomach was a sterile environment and that peptic ulcers were caused by lifestyle choices. According to Kimball C. Atwood IV, MD., physicians scoffed when first faced with the notion of a bacterial basis for peptic ulcer disease.

Altschuler asserts that there is more of a scientific basis for Collembola in humans than the entomologist and physician's overwhelming acceptance of a psychiatric explanation (Delusions of Parasitosis) for people's sensations of biting, stinging and crawling in their skin.

The more symptoms are discounted as delusions, the more determined sufferers become to document their reality. Such was the topic of a one hour public radio interview with David from Canada who told of how Collembola wreaked havoc on his life and described his battle to have his symptoms taken seriously. (The interview is available at http://www.headlice.org/news.) Barbara Glickstein, MPH, RN, co-host of New York City's WBAI Radio "HealthStyles," began the interview stating, “It is invariably the sufferers who bring first attention of a new disease to the medical community.”

And it was another sufferer, Michael, who searching on the internet came upon the title of a paper describing Collembola as human parasites, and notified the NPA.

The NPA says even the experts appear to have missed this 1955 Swedish Medical Journal report in which the well-respected entomologist, anthropologist and author, Felix Bryk, refers to the incidence of Collembola in humans as a plague, making mention of colleagues who during that time had also found Collembola as parasites in humans. Bryk said the Springtail Sira, (today's spelling Seira), was a human parasite being confirmed for the first time in Sweden. All this prompted him to write a report to the medical literature in which he stated:

“Until now, Collembolans or “springtails” have played a miniscule role as parasitic insects on the human body from an entomological/medical standpoint. Rarely, if ever, are they mentioned in the scientific literature. However the appearance of a previously unknown Collembolan as an occasional parasite that for years caused depression in a patient and continues to do so … has now rightly gotten the attention of scientists.”

The NPA had the article translated from Swedish and the first English translation of the Bryk report is now available on the NPA website, http://www.headlice.org/swedish, with the permission of the Swedish medical journal Lakartidningen.

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