2022 journal article
Biology, Systematics, Microbiome, Pathogen Transmission and Control of Chiggers (Acari: Trombiculidae, Leeuwenhoekiidae) with Emphasis on the United States
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Chiggers are the larval stage of Trombiculidae and Leeuwenhoekiidae mites of medical and veterinary importance. Some species in the genus Leptotrombidium and Herpetacarus vector Orientia species, the bacteria that causes scrub typhus disease in humans. Scrub typhus is a life-threatening, febrile disease. Chigger bites can also cause dermatitis. There were 248 chigger species reported from the US from almost every state. However, there are large gaps in our knowledge of the life history of other stages of development. North American wide morphological keys are needed for better species identification, and molecular sequence data for identification are minimal and not clearly matched with morphological data. The role of chiggers in disease transmission in the US is especially understudied, and the role of endosymbionts in Orientia infection are suggested in the scientific literature but not confirmed. The most common chiggers in the eastern United States were identified as Eutrombicula alfreddugesi but were likely misidentified and should be replaced with Eutrombicula cinnabaris. Scrub typhus was originally believed to be limited to the Tsutsugamushi Triangle and the chigger genus, Leptotrombidium, but there is increasing evidence this is not the case. The potential of Orientia species establishing in the US is high. In addition, several other recognized pathogens to infect humans, namely Hantavirus, Bartonella, Borrelia, and Rickettsia, were also detected in chiggers. The role that chiggers play in these disease transmissions in the US needs further investigation. It is possible some of the tick-borne diseases and red meat allergies are caused by chiggers.