Posted by: Glow-worm PJ5 SEP 2012
There are many generally acknowledged ways in which ownership of a dog can lead to an improvement in the owner’s health. Dog-walking helps maintain a healthy body-mass index, efficient cardiovascular system and lung function.
Mental benefits stem from the companionship and responsibility that being a dog owner entails, and it has been demonstrated that the simple action of stroking a dog can reduce stress levels.
However, recent research presented to the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology has suggested that, if there is a dog in the house, infants could have a reduced likelihood of developing asthma in later life.
A recent study at the University of California revealed that house dust from homes with cats and dogs has a microbial make-up different from that from pet-free homes. When this dust was fed to mice they were found to be protected against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes upper respiratory tract infections. In humans, the virus is more prevalent in early childhood, and in western countries 60 per cent of infants will be infected by the virus during their first RSV season (infection peaks during winter months) and nearly all children will have been infected by the age of three. There is a causative link between the severity of RSV infections and the likelihood of developing asthma in later life.
It was postulated that microbes contained within the dog-associated house dust colonise the gastrointestinal tract and that exposure in early infancy to these microbes alters the intestinal flora and affects how the immune system responds in later life. The study represents the first step towards identifying the microbial species which confer protection against RSV, and it is hoped that identifying the mechanisms of this protection could lead to new treatments for asthma.