Could it be Lucy had it all wrong when Snoopy kissed her? She panicked over his “dog germs,” running around and shouting, “Get hot water! Get some disinfectant!
Looks like, now, scientists think dog germs may not be a cause for panic, but a cure for what ails you.
The University of Arizona is launching a study to see if the bacteria in your dog’s mouth could boost your immune system and alleviate the effects of severe allergies and asthma. Ultimately, these scientists hope to find out if “dog germs” can boost the growth of microorganisms in people.
An initial study done in 2013, published in the Journal PLOS ONE, proved that households with dogs tend to have greater bacterial diversity — between both dogs and humans. That’s a good thing, since the more microbes you’re exposed to, the stronger your immune system becomes. The scientists behind this new study are now out to uncover why allergies and asthma have increased in the Western World. One theory is that human microbiomes — the collection of microbes in your body — may be depleted because people aren’t exposed to as much beneficial bacteria as we once were.
Kim Kelly, an anthropology doctoral student is one of the scientists behind the Arizona study. She points out humans and dogs have evolved in a complex relationship over thousands of years. She thinks there may be some scientific reason people and dogs get along so well.
”Is it just that they’re fuzzy and we like to pet them, or is there something else going on under the skin?” Kelly said in a written statement. “Has the relationship between dogs and humans gotten under the skin? And we believe it has.”
The University of Arizona study will pair people between 50 and 60 years old with dogs for 12 weeks. Then they’ll test the people to see if the exposure to dogs — and their big, slobbery tongues covered in dog germs — has boosted their immune systems.
Dr. Donna Hummell is a Pediatric Allergist and Immunologist at Vanderbilt University. She’s not involved with the Arizona study but suggests dogs may be a factor in spreading beneficial bacteria to people. She points to another study that found infants born into households with dogs tend to have lower allergy and asthma rates.
”Dogs spread their bacteria around more than cats do, particularly because dogs like to lick things and lick people and lick themselves in the process,” Dr. Hummell told ABC News.
If the study confirms that dog germs are a boost to the immune system, Lucy could forget the hot water and disinfectant and start appreciating Snoopy as a warm and fuzzy probiotic.
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