Living in a home with multiple dogs may help reduce an infant’s risk for developing wheezing in the first year of life, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC).
Cincinnati researchers, led by David Bernstein, MD, have found that infants living in homes with high levels of endotoxins (bacterial contaminants) and multiple dogs were more than two times less likely to wheeze than other infants.
They found that wheezing was not associated independently with either dog or cat ownership or high levels of indoor endotoxins; however, high endotoxin exposures in homes that also had multiple dogs resulted in less wheezing.
“Our research presents evidence that pet ownership offers a protective effect against development of lower respiratory symptoms in young children,” adds Bernstein.
The UC-led team’s findings conflict with earlier studies suggesting exposure to high endotoxin levels or pet ownership can protect against an increased risk for future allergic diseases, the UC team reports in the December edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“Exposure to high endotoxin levels in the home may not be an important determinant of aeroallergen sensitization during infancy,” explains Bernstein, professor of immunology and senior author for the study. “We do not yet understand how and why exposure to high levels of bacterial endotoxin and multiple dogs in the home exert a protective effect in these high-risk infants from wheezing early in life.”
Endotoxins are natural compounds secreted from pathogens (disease-causing agents) like bacteria that are commonly found in the intestines and feces. Scientists believe that endotoxins can stimulate our immune systems in many different ways.