I read an interesting article this past week about a study whose findings were recently presented at the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Francisco. This study found that "house dust from homes with dogs appears to protect against infection with a common respiratory virus that is associated with the development of asthma in children." The virus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), "is common in infants and can manifest as mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Severe infection in infancy is associated with a higher risk of developing childhood asthma."
"The collection of bacterial communities (the microbiome) in house dust from homes that possess a cat or dog is compositionally distinct from house dust from homes with no pets. This led us (researchers) 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."
With this in mind, I guess I won't feel too badly about not having a spotless house. I admit that I HATE cleaning and this study supports the "hygiene hypothesis." This theory behind this hypothesis is "that microbial exposure in early infancy is an important factor in determining risk of developing allergic disease and asthma. This is supported by studies demonstrating that individuals who live on farms and are exposed to livestock-associated microbes are less likely to develop asthma and allergies compared to those who live in urban environments. Since asthma is associated with an inappropriate response to allergens, and immune maturation develops in early infancy in parallel with colonization of mucosal surfaces by microbes, it is believed that appropriate microbial exposure during this critical period of immune maturation promotes immune homeostasis and protects against allergy and asthma development. Early life pet exposure has been associated with reduced risk of childhood asthma."
The hygiene hypothesis makes sense considering there are more children suffering from allergies and asthma than ever before. Growing up, I don't remember a single person who was allergic to peanuts. Now I know several that have severe reactions. Maybe we have become too "clean" as a society. We have easy access to anti-bacterial everything these days. There are anti-bacterial wipes, gels and soaps that maybe we need a little bit of "bacteria" to keep us healthy. So, the next time I find myself torn between writing a blog post or cleaning the house, I'll just have to remind myself that a slightly messy home is good for my children's immune system.