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How cats can protect newborns against asthma

A new study conducted by scientists at the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Center in Denmark has revealed a way that cats may help protect newborns from developing asthma. According to the investigation, cats may also prevent babies from developing bronchitis and pneumonia. The researchers did not find, however, that dogs have the same impact.

Research on how pets affect the likelihood of developing allergies and asthma has produced mixed data. Some disorders appear to be more likely for those who grow up with certain pets, whereas others appear to be less likely. 

A specific gene, called TT, has been implicated in the relationship between pets and the development of allergies. People with a certain genetic variant of TT have been shown to be twice as likely to develop conditions referred to as atopy conditions, which include asthma.

In this recent Danish study, the scientists studied 377 children from Denmark whose mothers had a history of asthma. The researchers analyzed the children's genes, as well as allergens collected from their beds. About 1/3 of the children carried the TT genetic variant that should have increased their risk for developing asthma. 

Of these children who were genetically more susceptible to asthma, those who had a cat at home were less likely to actually develop asthma. The study did not clarify why having a cat reduces the likelihood of developing asthma, but scientists speculate that something about exposure to the cat prevents the TT gene in these children from becoming activated. Future research will likely help us understand the circumstances in which pets can protect children against allergic diseases and how exactly those pets confer their health benefits.

Author
Dr. Summit Shah

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