Dogs May Guard Against Asthma

Mice become immune to a virus associated with childhood asthma when exposed to dust from homes that have dogs.

Jul 3, 2012
Hayley Dunning


The microbiome of dust from homes with dogs is distinct from that of non-pet homes, and now it appears this unique bacterial assemblage may confer an advantage to the youngest members of the household. Mice fed dog-home dust before being exposed to the common infant infection respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is associated with a high risk of developing asthma, appear to be immune to the virus compared to mice fed on normal house dust.

The immune mice also had “a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition,” Kei Fujimura, part of the team from the University of California that announced its findings at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting last month (June 19), told Wired Science.

This suggests that certain microbes carried by dogs may take residence in the gastrointestinal tract of the mice and play a role in modulating the immune response to RSV. Identifying exactly which microbial species, or combination of species, is responsible is the next step in the team’s research, which could potentially lead to vaccines for respiratory viruses.