If you have both two and four-legged kids and hate housework, here’s some good news: A new study has found that the dust in homes with dogs seems to protect children from becoming infected with a common respiratory virus that can lead to the development of asthma.
“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),” said Dr. Kei Fujimura, a molecular biologist, in a news release yesterday from the American Society for Microbiology.
“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.”
Fujimura and other researchers conducted the study at the University of California, San Francisco. They compared three groups of mice: those fed house dust from homes with dogs before being infected with RSV; those infected with RSV without exposure to dust; and a control group of mice not infected with RSV.
“Mice fed dust did not exhibit symptoms associated with RSV-mediated airway infection, such as inflammation and mucus production,” Fujimura said. “They also possessed a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition compared to animals not fed dust.”
Having a dog in the house has previously been associated with protection against childhood asthma development. Based on this, Fujimura said she and her colleagues discovered that house dust from homes with a dog or cat is composed differently than dust from homes with no pets.
“This led us to speculate that microbes within dog-associated house dust may colonize the gastrointestinal tract, modulate immune responses and protect the host against the asthmagenic pathogen RSV,” Fujimura said. “This study represents the first step towards determining the identity of the microbial species which confer protection against this respiratory pathogen.”
PHOTO: Rob Bixby Photography