According to a study from the University of California, homes with dogs may protect children from a common respiratory virus (RSV) that is associated with the development of asthma.
Previous studies have shown that houses with and without dogs, have different types of bacterial communities in them. Also, children living with pet dogs have a lower risk of developing asthma. Studies have also shown that kids who grow up on farms and around livestock are less likely to develop asthma and allergies than those who live in a urban environment.
During the study, Kei Fujimura and her colleagues at University of California collected dust from homes with dogs. They mixed the dust with a solution and fed it to mice. After eight days, the mice were given RSV. The researchers then compared three groups of animals: Mice fed house dust from homes with dogs before being infected with RSV, mice infected with RSV without exposure to dust and a control group of mice not infected with RSV.
The mice that were fed house dust did not develop the inflammation and mucous production symptomatic of RSV. A different group of bacteria was also found in the gastrointestinal tract of these mice compared to the other groups.
Kei Fujimura, a researcher on the study said, “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.”
The main goal of this research was to identify which of the microbes could be responsible for defending against the RSV infection. “Such information could lead to development of microbial-based therapies to protect against this infectious agent and, putatively, reduce the risk of childhood asthma development,” the researchers write.
Professor Suresh Mahalingam, a virologist at Griffith University in Brisbane says this study is important because RSV affects more than 90 percent of children worldwide. “Whether this experiment has relevance to humans, no one has yet shown. The way forward now is to carry out some population-based studies to see if there’s a correlation between reduced RSV infection among children living in the presence of dogs.”