Cats protect against atopic dermatitis

Effect of prenatal environmental effects on the development of atopic dermatitis in children

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Children of mothers who live with livestock and cats are better protected against eczema. By the second year of life, they are less likely to suffer from this painful inflammation of the skin. This is now demonstrated by a new study Swiss researchers in the "Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology".

Eczema is a chronic and painful inflammation of the skin. The disease often occurs in early childhood, usually it begins in infancy. It affects up to 20 percent of children in industrialized countries, making it one of the most common skin diseases in childhood.

Understanding the disease better

As great as suffering for the youngest, so great is the need to better understand this disease. But eczema is an allergic disease, and the causes of all allergic diseases are complex: Because: Genetic factors and environmental factors affect each other on the immune system.

Research has shown that allergic diseases are less common in children when they grow up on a farm and when their mothers live on a farm during pregnancy.

Contact with livestock protects

The contact with livestock, the consumption of milk from the farm and the contact with components of bacteria have a protective effect. However, this protective effect on atopic dermatitis has not yet been proven. display

Now, however, researchers led by Caroline Roduit from the University of Zurich, together with colleagues from other universities, have for the first time demonstrated the effect of prenatal environmental factors and genetic mechanisms on the development of atopic dermatitis during the first two years of life.

Examined 1, 063 children

In the new study, the scientists examined children in rural areas from five European countries - Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Switzerland. Of the 1, 063 children, 508 came from farming families and 555 from non-farming families.

The researchers were able to show that in children of mothers who spent their pregnancy in the environment of livestock or cats, the risk was lower in the first two years of life of atopic dermatitis. In addition, in these children, they identified two genes that are central to innate immunity and that are less likely to be diagnosed with allergic disease.

Results of great importance

These results are enormously important to scientists, not only in view of the size of the disease and its widespread use, but they also support the theory that the interactions between genes and the environment and the developing immune system play a role the development of eczema in young children.

(University of Zurich, 03.12.2010 - DLO)