A study has found that our furry friends can help improve gut health in newborn babies, even protecting them from childhood allergies and obesity

Researchers have uncovered a link between pet ownership and an increased diversity of healthy bacteria in infants. The study compared whether the babies were exposed to pets just during pregnancy, both pre and postnatal, or not at all. Testing 753 faecal samples, the team discovered that the composition of gut bacteria was richer and more diverse in infants who had been exposed to pets in the womb and after birth. Such exposure also resulted in lower levels of Strep B, a bacterium that can cause infection in newborn babies.

The researchers, made up of scientists from the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia, concluded; “Our findings highlighted the differential impact of pet exposure on infant gut microbiota following variant birth scenarios; however, in common, the abundance of ruminococcus and oscillospira were found to be increased independent of other factors. In addition, our finding of reduced streptococcal colonization with prenatal pet ownership may lower the risk for childhood metabolic and [allergic] disease. Further research is needed to link the pet-related microbiota changes with health outcomes of infant.”

Gut bacteria plays an important role in our future health. It can be influenced by several different factors; including the method of birth delivery, whether a baby is breastfed, and if the mother has taken antibiotics during pregnancy. Previous studies have found a link between lower levels of healthy bacteria – such as ruminococcus and oscillospira – and a greater likelihood of childhood allergies and obesity.

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