Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada, have recently released the findings of a study which concluded that pets increase, through their presence in the household, two good bacteria levels in infants.

Infants benefit from household pets by getting more of the good gut bacteria.
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Infants that are exposed to pets from the first day of birth and up to when they are three months-old, experience an increase of two type of bacteria in their gut. One is called Ruminococcus and the other one is called Oscillospira.

Ruminococcus – good bacteria commonly found in human intestines and plays a major role in digesting complex carbs. A high number of Ruminococci has been proven to reduce risk of diabetes and colon cancer.

Oscillospira – good bacteria found in the large intestine, helps break down resistant starches and ferment them.

Previous studies have shown that a low level of Ruminococcus and Oscillospira in kids often associates with obesity and atopy.

Anita Kozyrskyj, of the Department of Pediatrics at Alberta, who is one of the authors in this recent study, has found a link between the increased number of these good microbes in the intestines of infants and their exposure to pets.

The pets that were included in the study were furry one – so we’re not talking about snakes, for instance.

The team of researchers have enrolled in the study 804 babies and their mothers. At the beginning of the study, in 2009, some mothers had given birth already, others were still pregnant. They were asked to fill-out questionnaire about pet ownership. Three months after they had given birth, they had to complete another quiz about their pets. At the same time, it was analyzed the level of Ruminococcus and Oscillospira in the intestines of the infants.

At the end of the study, Dr. Kozyrskyj and her team concluded that in common, exposure to pets increased the abundance of Ruminococcus and Oscillospira. These associations were independent of maternal asthma or allergy status, breastfeeding exclusivity and other home characteristics.