According to a new study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and presented by the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, children who live with dogs may have less of a risk of developing asthma.
The researchers state that dust found in households with dogs may protect against the infection associated with a respiratory virus which has been linked to asthma in kids.
Kei Fujimura, one of the authors of the study commented:
"In this study we found that feeding mice house dust from homes that have dogs present protected them against a childhood airway infectious agent, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV infection is common in infants and can manifest as mild to severe respiratory symptoms.
Severe infection in infancy is associated with a higher risk of developing childhood asthma."
During the trial, Fujimura and her team analyzed 3 different types of animals:
- Mice that were fed dust from houses with dogs before they were infected with RSV
- Mice that were infected with RSV without exposure to dust
- Mice in a control group that were not infected with RSV
"Mice fed dust did not exhibit symptoms associated with RSV-mediated airway infection, such as inflammation and mucus production. The also possessed a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition compared to animals not fed dust."
She explained that in the past, owning pets, especially dogs, had been linked to lower rates of asthma in kids. Fujimura and her team set out to show that the microbiome, or a collection of bacterial clusters found in homes with pets, such as cats or dogs, is extremely different than the dust found in homes that do not have any animals.
"This led us to speculate that microbes within dog-associated house dust may colonize the gastrointestinal tract, modulate immune responses and protect the host against the asthmagenic pathogen RSV.
This study represents the first step towards determining the identity of the microbial species which confer protection against this respiratory pathogen."
According to the investigators, their research is imperative in understanding the effects of microbes in determining diseases - their findings may help to form treatments for RSV and eventually lower childhood asthma risk.