To have or not to have pets around children has always been a debatable topic, but a new research puts all confusion to rest as it suggests that keeping a cat at home may prevent asthma in young children. According to Danish scientists, the genetic variation that plays a significant role in triggering asthma is somehow switched off when a cat is present.
The team of scientists from the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Centre (COPSAC) in Denmark has provided the explanation after studying 377 toddlers. They revealed that those who grew up with a cat had a lower likelihood of suffering from the inflammatory condition.
The researchers monitored 377 children from a year to five years old in the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The children were assessed depending on their genetic risk, and if they were exposed to cats or dogs in their house. The study found that having a cat made little difference to children, with a low risk of asthma.
The genetic variant, called TT is already known to double the risk of 'atopy' conditions like -- asthma and inflammation of the bronchi. So, when TT genotype kids were monitored, it was found that there's a consistently lower risk of asthma after cat exposure.
In other words, the higher the risk of getting asthma, the more the benefit of owning a cat would have.
The authors said: "Cat and dog exposure has generally been suspected to increase the risk of childhood asthma but studies have been inconsistent."
Dr Arne Høst, who co-led the research, told The Telegraph: "It's very exciting that they find this connection because other studies have struggled to conclude anything final."
Jakob Stokholm, who led the study at the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Center, said that the explanation could be related to bacteria that cats carry and bring home.
"If we can explain these mechanisms, it opens up opportunities to isolate them and to protect against the disease," he added.
However, there was no similar decrease in asthma risk for those who grew up with a dog. The authors mentioned: "We found no individual effect from dog exposure in the allergen analyses."