As if holiday travel isn't stressful enough. Now University of Michigan researchers say we're likely sharing that already overcrowded airline cabin with countless tiny creatures including house dust mites.

"What people might not realize when they board a plane is that they can share the flight with a myriad of microscopic passengers – including house dust mites – that take advantage of humanity's technological progress for their own benefit," said U-M biologist Pavel Klimov.

"House dust mites can easily travel on an airline passenger's clothes, skin, food and baggage," said Klimov, an assistant research scientist in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "Like humans, they use air travel to visit new places, where they establish new populations, expand their ranges and interact with other organisms through various means."

Air travel likely explains some of the findings of a new genetic study conducted by Klimov, Professor Barry O'Connor and U-M visiting scholar Rubaba Hamid that looked at the connections between house dust mite populations in the United States and South Asia.

They found genetic mutations shared by mites in the U.S. and Pakistan that demonstrate the eight-legged creatures' propensity for intercontinental dispersal, according to a research paper published online Dec. 10 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Michigan News press release

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