Scientists have discovered that the dust from houses having dogs has ‘magical properties’ which might be a protective shield from asthma. What are these magical properties, you ask? Well, a different set of micro-organisms (also called microbes, some of which are bacteria).
Let’s Inhale Some Dust, Now
A bunch of researchers at the University of California exposed mice to dust collected from houses with dogs, and then exposed these mice to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is highly associated with the occurrence of asthma in childhood. They found that these mice were protected against the virus. Moreover, the composition of bacteria in the intestines of these mice (our intestines play host to a multitude of bacteria- most of which are useful to us) was very different from mice which hadn’t been given the house-dust treatment.
Dog Bacteria Protecting our Body
Scientists are theorizing that the ‘dog’ microbes being inhaled somehow form a permanent part of the mice’s microbial community. They could also alter the mice’s immune system in some way, making them more resistant against the asthma virus. One possible way is that they could ‘warn’ the immune system in advance about a similar organism (one of which could be the asthma virus) without actually harming the body.
No conclusions can be derived right now because the bacterial content of the dust-modified intestines is unknown right now. Once this is determined, however, the path to potential asthma vaccines could be paved.
This research reflects current perspectives in science that microbes form an essential component of the human ecosystem. From sequencing the human genome, we are now sequencing the human ‘microbiome’ and discovering connections and mechanisms that shape many of the biological phenomena around us.
Right now, all we can say is that it’s not a little ironic that a possible cure for a disease that often leads to dust allergies is…dust!