Researchers from the University of Alberta recently published a study about how people with pets may be protected in the future from allergies and obesity. Children, according to the study, born into a home with pets were found to have microbes that could prevent obesity and allergies. The study researchers looked at more than 700 Canadian children found that these children had the microbes ruminococcus and oscillospira. The participants were from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study cohort from 2009 to 2012. The study was published in the journal Microbiome.
Ruminococcus is a type of bacteria and is considered a gut microbe found in the respiratory and intestinal tracts of humans and animals. Oscillospira is another kind of gut microbe that has been “associated with leanness or lower body mass index,” according to USA Today. Anita Kozyrskyj, a pediatric epidemiologist from the University of Alberta, said that the gut microbes increased with the presence of a pet in the house. This “early exposure to bacteria” can create a barrier to other more harmful bacteria.
Unborn children are “indirectly exposed” to the microbes from the pet to the mother to the child. Even if the pet is removed from the home, the baby can still benefit from the bacteria. According to the journal, Microbiome, expectant mothers were asked to report on the number of pets at their homes during their pregnancy and postpartum. The researchers also collected fecal samples from the children to study.
Because pets were exposed to different types of dirt and bacteria, their owners and children had stronger immune systems. The babies born into this home also developed that same more robust system. Kozyrskyj’s team also found that having pets during pregnancy reduced the risk of transferring vaginal group B Strep during childbirth. Group B strep can cause blood infection, pneumonia, and meningitis in newborns.
According to Science Alert, Kozyrskyj said that there was a “critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop.” The presence of pets in a home with children can also be beneficial to the social development, “reduce children’s anxiety and stress, and even provide better companionship than siblings.” According to Kozyrskyj, in the future, researchers may find how to deliver the benefits of a pet without one by providing a pill of some sort. She said that the idea of a “dog in a pill” was “not far-fetched.”
By Cheryl Werber