60-Second Science

Dog Dust Protects Rodent Respiration

Exposure to dust taken from a dog owner's home prevented allergies and airway infection in mice. Karen Hopkin reports.

Just thinking about dust almost makes you sneeze. So you might think a house with dust and a dog would be a recipe for respiratory distress. Well, think again. Because a new study shows that exposure to dust taken from a dog owner’s home actually prevents allergies and airway infection. In mice, at least. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Kei E. Fujimura et al., House dust exposure mediates gut microbiome Lactobacillus enrichment and airway immune defense against allergens and virus infection]

It’s been known for some time that early exposure to a furry companion can reduce the risk of childhood allergies and asthma. To find out why, researchers treated mice with dust from two homes: one with a canine resident and one that was pet-free.

Turns out that the rodents that were sprinkled with dog-imbued dust mounted a less aggressive immune response against a common allergen, cockroach protein.

Probing a little deeper, the researchers found that the dog-dust mice had bacteria in their gut not found in the other mice, including a ton of one species of lactobacillus. Exposing other mice to that bug alone warded off an allergic response, and even protected them from infection with a respiratory virus.

So go tell Fido know that he’s a good boy. Because even if he doesn’t fetch your slippers, he’s likely contributing to your good health.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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