New research suggests that exposure to certain microbes during infancy—particularly, to those from a particular strain of bacteria found in dogs—can alter the intestinal flora of a baby's developing GI tract such that asthmatic symptoms of a common virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), are undetectable.
In the study, mice were fed dust from homes with dogs and then exposed to RSV. These mice showed no symptoms of infection. The intestinal bacteria of these same mice were also found to be different than the bacteria living in GI tract non-dust fed mice exposed to RSV.
"The researchers think that exposure to certain microbes in early infancy changes the early composition of an infant's intestinal flora and this sets the tone for how the developing immune system will respond later in childhood," explains Neil Wagner, writing for the Atlantic. "Early exposure to and colonization by beneficial bacteria may lead to a generally calmer immune response to the many potential allergens commonly present in the environment."
Future studies will attempt to identify the specific species of dog bacteria who offer this health advantage, as well as whether the bacteria are from the dogs themselves or from something else common in a dog-owning household.
The research was presented at the 2012 (112th) General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) on June 19 in San Francisco. It has not yet appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. [TheAtlantic - Image via Vitaly Titov & Maria Sidelnikova/Shutterstock]