Exposure to household pets from birth

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Alberta looked at infant gut microbiota to see whether pre- or postnatal pet exposure would have a significant effect.

Mothers were given questionnaires and the infants were split into four categories based on exposure: no pet exposure in the pre- or postnatal periods; only prenatal pet exposure; both pre- and postnatal pet exposure; and only postnatal pet exposure.

More than half the infants had some exposure to pets—8% were exposed in pregnancy alone and 46.8% had exposure during both time periods.

To control for other factors, comparisons were conducted for specific groups with or without siblings, non-exclusively breastfed infants, as well as non-exclusively breastfed infants without siblings.

Pre- and postnatal pet exposure enriched the abundance of the bacteria of Oscillospira and/or Ruminococcus. It was determined that infants with high levels of Oscillospira and Ruminococcus would be at a lower risk for allergies and obesity.

Some of the benefits of pet exposure applied to infants who had prenatal exposure but not postnatal exposure, indicating that the microbiome exchange could take place before birth. The researchers concluded that further research is needed to link the microbiota changes with the health outcomes of infants in this study as well as children in other cohorts.

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