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Neotrombicula inopinata (Acari: Trombiculidae) – a possible causative agent of trombiculiasis in Europe

A.A. Stekolnikov, P. Santibáñez, A.M. Palomar, J.A. Oteo

Parasites & Vectors, 7: 90 (2014).


For over a decade, the presence of trombiculid mites in some mountain areas of La Rioja (Northern Spain) and their association with seasonal human dermatitis have been recognized. This work aimed to establish the species identity of the agent causing trombiculiasis in the study area.

Trombiculid larvae (chigger mites) were collected from vegetation in the Sierra Cebollera Natural Park and in Sierra La Hez during an outbreak of human trombiculiasis in 2010. Three specimens collected from a bird were also examined. Identification was made using morphological and morphometric traits based on the most recent taxonomic sources. A comparison of those mites with specimens of the same species collected throughout Europe was performed by means of cluster analysis with multiscale bootstrap resampling and calculation of approximately unbiased p-values.

All collected mites were identified as Neotrombicula inopinata (Oudemans, 1909). Therefore, this species is the most likely causative agent of trombiculiasis in Spain, not Neotrombicula autumnalis (Shaw, 1790), as it was generally assumed. No chigger was identified as N. autumnalis in the study area. Neotrombicula inopinata clearly differs from N. autumnalis in the presence of eight or more setae in the 1st and 2nd rows of dorsal idiosomal setae vs. six setae in N. autumnalis. Comparison of N. inopinata samples from different locations shows significant geographic variability in morphometric traits. Samples from Western and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus formed three separate clusters.

Since the taxonomical basis of many studies concerning N. autumnalis as a causative agent of trombiculiasis is insufficient, it is highly possible that N. inopinata may be hiding behind the common name of “harvest bug” in Europe, together with N. autumnalis.

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