A family dog could keep your kids from getting asthma

Animals get a hard rap when it comes to cleaning. They trigger allergies, leave fuzz everywhere, and gleefully destroy furniture. Now it looks like having them around might serve some long term good — especially if you have young children.

Research being presented at 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology has shown a link between the dust that's found in households with dogs, and a decline in an infection linked to asthma later in life.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an incredibly common cause of respiratory tract infections amongst infants and children — in the USA some 60% of children are infected in their first year, and by 2-3 years of age, almost all have. For children who suffer severe RSV infections early in life, asthma is a long-term likely side-effect. Now, a team lead by Dr Kei Fujimura at UCSF, has shown that having dogs in the house may be able to stave of these long-term problems.

The team's research involved comparing three groups of mice: a group exposed to RSV; a group fed dust from homes with dogs, and then given the disease; and a virus-free control. Those exposed to the dust didn't show the symptoms of RSV, such as inflammation and mucus production, and had different gut bacteria to the other mice.

"This led us to speculate that microbes within dog-associated house dust may colonize the gastrointestinal tract, modulate immune responses and protect the host against the asthmagenic pathogen RSV," said Fujimura in the press release. "This study represents the first step towards determining the identity of the microbial species which confer protection against this respiratory pathogen."

There's evidence that houses with cats may have similar benefits — so maybe add this to the long list of things to expose your baby to, so that they don't have health problems later in life.

Photo redit: Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock.