Bacteria that reside within tiny mites may cause rosacea, a new review study suggests.

Researchers out of the National University of Ireland report that rosacea may be triggered by bacteria that live within tiny Demodex folliculorum mites which make their home in our skin. Their findings appear in the Journal of Medical Microbiology. Previous research has shown that the numbers of Demodex mites living in the skin of rosacea patients is higher than in normal individuals. More recently, the bacterium Bacillus oleronius was isolated from inside a Demodex mite and was found to produce molecules provoking an immune reaction in rosacea patients. Other studies have shown patients with varying types of rosacea react to the molecules produced by this bacterium. In addition, this bacterium is sensitive to the antibiotics used to treat rosacea.

The new findings may give rise to more effective treatments for rosacea, conclude study authors who were led by Kevin Kavanagh, PhD. “Targeting these bacteria may be a useful way of treating and preventing this condition,” he says in a press release. “Alternatively, we could look at controlling the population of Demodex mites in the face. Some pharmaceutical companies are already developing therapies to do this, which represents a novel way of preventing and reversing rosacea, which can be painful and embarrassing for many people.

Michele Green, MD, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says that the new findings make sense. “I am not surprised, considering how often Rosacea improves or resolves with oral and or topical antibiotic therapy. Rosacea like traditional acne may indeed have the same cause and, hence, the same treatment.“