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SALT LAKE CITY — Good news for dog owners and Fido lovers all over: Having a canine companion can reduce a child’s chances of developing asthma and allergies later in life and it could be a key component to a new treatment of the diseases.
By exposing mice to the dust from homes with dogs that live both inside and outside, researchers at the University California San Francisco discovered the reason children under age 1 in these homes are at a lower risk of developing respiratory problems like asthma and allergies.
Researcher Susan Lynch, PhD, and her co-authors found that when exposed to dust from these homes – compared to dust of dog-free homes – the community of microbes within the guts of mice reshaped itself around the good bacteria called Lactobacillus johnsonii found in those homes. This reshaping increased immune function and prevented airway inflammation due to allergens and respiratory syncytial virus.
"Perhaps early life dog exposure introduces microbes into the home that somehow influence the gut microbiome, and change the immune response in the airways," Lynch said.
While other studies have found similar results, this study explored why dust from dogs can have this effect.
Cats, to a lesser extent, can have a similar effect on children, Lynch said.
What it boils down to, Lynch said, is that a child’s environment influences immune responses throughout the body. It also shows that good species of bacteria could be used to reshape the gut microbiome as a treatment asthma and allergies.
Lynch continues her study of the mechanism in a large, multi-institutional study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.