Good news for dog owners who have children: A study published Monday found that households who have dogs who go outdoors get extra protection against asthma and allergies, thanks to enhanced “gut microbes.”
The study involved mice. When infant mice were exposed to “dog dust” from household with dogs who lived outdoors, the composition of microbes in their guts were significantly changed, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Then, when the mice were then challenged with some well-known allergy triggers, they had “significantly reduced” allergic responses.
In the study, researchers exposed mice to dust from a dog owner’s home, and then tested the mice’s immune response to cockroach allergens and ovalbumin, which commonly trigger asthma attacks, according to Live Science. “They found that mice exposed to dog dust had fewer immune cells in the airway that respond to allergens, compared with mice not exposed to dog dust.”
Susan Lynch, an associate professor in the division of gastroenterology at University of California, said that having dogs in the house “might inoculate the GI tract” of babies and lead to a more mature immune response that is less sensitive to many allergens, according to the Journal.
“We develop this great diversity of organisms [in the gut] over the first couple of years of life,” Dr. Lynch said.
Though the study involved mice, Dr. Lynch said that study is consistent with previous research based on human observation — that babies in homes with dogs are less likely to have allergies and asthma — and believes it likely applies to humans. And she said that cats can have a similar affect, but to a lesser extent.
In addition to being happy news for people who have dogs and kids, the findings are giving researchers hope to one day remodel people’s gut microbiomes to prevent the development of allergies or asthma or to treat existing cases, according to Philly.com.
“Gut microbiome manipulation represents a promising new therapeutic strategy to protect individuals against both pulmonary infection and allergic airway disease,” Lynch said.
And all thanks to “dog dust,” the flakes of skin that fall from our canine friends.