British scientists have determined bacteria living symbiotically in red poultry mites might help prevent salmonella and similar pathogens.

The mite causes blood spotting on eggs, making the eggs unfit for sale. In severe cases infested birds can develop infections caused by bacteria and viruses that can be passed on to people.

With the recent changes in regulations brought on by new threats like bird ‘flu, coupled with a growing and widespread resistance to the chemicals we use to fight poultry mites  we urgently need to develop new approaches to combat these pests, said Olivier Sparagano, a Newcastle University researcher.

If somehow we could develop a method to destabilize the symbiotic bacteria that we have discovered living inside the mites ? we could develop a new control method for the chicken red mite, he said.

Sparagano said such a development would create economic benefits through higher egg quality and production and fewer diseases transmitted by parasitic mites. It would also lead to better welfare for the birds, he added.

The study was presented this week at the University of Edinburgh during a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology.