University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry study: Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity

Victoria Colliver wrote in the 2013 San Francisco Gate article Pets may help strengthen kids’ resistance to allergies:

Conventional wisdom about babies and pets generally falls into two camps. There are those who want to shield their newborns from the bacteria-laden world, especially in the baby’s first months. Others are convinced that exposure to a wide range of germs – especially from four-legged friends – has a protective effect against allergies and asthma.

The pet-friendly approach has the support of a growing body of research, and a new UCSF study takes that a step further. It looks at how exposure to household dust tracked in by dogs, including dander, hair, saliva and a variety of microbes, changes the bacterial makeup in the intestinal tract to help prevent allergic responses.

Rising asthma rates

The study comes at a time when allergy and asthma rates are on the rise. One in 12 people, or about 25 million Americans, had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14, or 20 million people, in 2001, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Allergic asthma, the most common form of asthma, is triggered by allergens like dust, dander and pollens.

Some of that increase has been attributed to what’s known as the “hygiene hypothesis.” That theory holds that the lack of exposure in infancy and early childhood to bacteria and viruses and other microorganisms because of modern sealed-in homes and antibacterial cleaners hampers the body’s ability to fight off infection.

The UCSF study supports that, especially when it comes to dogs and the types of microbes they bring into the home.

“What we’ve shown is exposure to certain microbes in an environment associated with having an indoor/outdoor dog changes the types of bacteria in the gut in a manner that alters the immune response and in the airways in a way that protects against allergens,” said Susan Lynch, lead study author and associate professor of gastroenterology at UCSF.

The study, which also involved researchers from the University of Michigan, Henry Ford Health System in Michigan and Georgia Regents University, was published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

It builds on research by researchers at Henry Ford Hospital more than a decade ago showing that having pets, especially dogs, in the house during the first year of life may protect the child from developing allergies….. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Pets-may-help-strengthen-kids-resistance-to-5091705.php

Research from the University of Alberta confirms prior studies.

Science Daily reported in Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity:

If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

A new University of Alberta study showed that babies from families with pets — 70 per cent of which were dogs — showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

But don’t rush out to adopt a furry friend just yet.

“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes — microorganisms or bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals.

The latest findings from Kozyrskyj and her team’s work on fecal samples collected from infants registered in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study build on two decades of research that show children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma.

The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life — for example, in a dog’s fur and on its paws — can create early immunity, though researchers aren’t sure whether the effect occurs from bacteria on the furry friends or from human transfer by touching the pets, said Kozyrskyj.

Her team of 12, including study co-author and U of A post-doctoral fellow Hein Min Tun, take the science one step closer to understanding the connection by identifying that exposure to pets in the womb or up to three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, which have been linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

“The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house,” said Kozyrskyj, adding that the pet exposure was shown to affect the gut microbiome indirectly — from dog to mother to unborn baby — during pregnancy as well as during the first three months of the baby’s life. In other words, even if the dog had been given away for adoption just before the woman gave birth, the healthy microbiome exchange could still take place.

The study also showed that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three birth scenarios known for reducing immunity, as shown in Kozyrskyj’s previous work: C-section versus vaginal delivery, antibiotics during birth and lack of breastfeeding.

What’s more, Kozyrskyj’s study suggested that the presence of pets in the house reduced the likelihood of the transmission of vaginal GBS (group B Strep) during birth, which causes pneumonia in newborns and is prevented by giving mothers antibiotics during delivery…. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170406143845.htm

Citation:

Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity

Research shows having a dog early in life may alter gut bacteria in immune-boosting ways

Date:              April 6, 2017

Source:          University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Summary:

If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity? A new study showed that babies from families with pets — 70 per cent of which were dogs — showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hein M. Tun, Theodore Konya, Tim K. Takaro, Jeffrey R. Brook, Radha Chari, Catherine J. Field, David S. Guttman, Allan B. Becker, Piush J. Mandhane, Stuart E. Turvey, Padmaja Subbarao, Malcolm R. Sears, James A. Scott, Anita L. Kozyrskyj. Exposure to household furry pets influences the gut microbiota of infant at 3–4 months following various birth scenarios. Microbiome, 2017; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0254-x

Here is the press release from the University of Alberta:

Pet exposure may reduce allergies and obesity

U Alberta research shows having a dog early in life may alter the gut’s microbiome in immune-boosting ways.

By Lesley Young on April 6, 2017

Early exposure to pets may make kids less prone to allergies and obesity, a UAlberta study shows.

If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

A new University of Alberta study showed that babies from families with pets—70 per cent of which were dogs—showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

But don’t rush out to adopt a furry friend just yet.

“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes—microorganisms or bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals.

The latest findings from Kozyrskyj and her team’s work on fecal samples collected from infants registered in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study build on two decades of research that show children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma.

The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life—for example, in a dog’s fur and on its paws—can create early immunity, though researchers aren’t sure whether the effect occurs from bacteria on the furry friends or from human transfer by touching the pets, said Kozyrskyj.

Her team of 12, including study co-author and U of A post-doctoral fellow Hein Min Tun, take the science one step closer to understanding the connection by identifying that exposure to pets in the womb or up to three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, which have been linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

Researchers Hein Min Tun (left) and Anita Kozyrskyj found that babies from families with pets had more of two types of gut bacteria that may protect them from allergies and obesity.

“The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house,” said Kozyrskyj, adding that the pet exposure was shown to affect the gut microbiome indirectly—from dog to mother to unborn baby—during pregnancy as well as during the first three months of the baby’s life. In other words, even if the dog had been given away for adoption just before the woman gave birth, the healthy microbiome exchange could still take place.

The study also showed that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three birth scenarios known for reducing immunity, as shown in Kozyrskyj’s previous work: C-section versus vaginal delivery, antibiotics during birth and lack of breastfeeding.

What’s more, Kozyrskyj’s study suggested that the presence of pets in the house reduced the likelihood of the transmission of vaginal GBS (group B Strep) during birth, which causes pneumonia in newborns and is prevented by giving mothers antibiotics during delivery.

It’s far too early to predict how this finding will play out in the future, but Kozyrskyj doesn’t rule out the concept of a “dog in a pill” as a preventive tool for allergies and obesity.

“It’s not far-fetched that the pharmaceutical industry will try to create a supplement of these microbiomes, much like was done with probiotics,” she said.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen NCE), was published in the journal Microbiome, along with an editorial in Nature.                                                                                                                                  https://www.ualberta.ca/news-and-events/newsarticles/2017/april/pet-exposure-may-reduce-allergy-and-obesity

Pets provide many benefits for humans.

Dana Casciotti, PhD and Diana Zuckerman, PhD of the National Center for Health Research wrote in The benefits of pets for human health:

The better we understand the human-animal bond, the more we can use it to improve people’s lives. This article summarizes what is known and not known about how animals help improve the health and well-being of people, and what the implications might be for helping people who don’t have pets of their own. Over 71 million American households (62%) have a pet,2 and most people think of their pets as members of the family.3 Some research studies have found that people who have a pet have healthier hearts, stay home sick less often, make fewer visits to the doctor, get more exercise, and are less depressed. Pets may also have a significant impact on allergies, asthma, social support, and social interactions with other people….         http://center4research.org/healthy-living-prevention/pets-and-health-the-impact-of-companion-animals/

As long a pet owners are willing to meet the physical and emotional needs of their pets and form a bond, the relationship of pets and humans is beneficial to both.

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