New Delhi: A recent study has suggested that having pets at home can help in keeping allergies and other ailments like diabetes at bay.
The 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 pediatric epidemiologist Anita Kozyrskyj.
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.