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According to Californian researchers, the presence of a dog in the home could limit the risk of developing Crohn’s disease and participate in an adapted immune response to environmental microbes.
Crohn’s disease (CD) is a chronic inflammation that can affect the walls of the entire digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Once installed, the disease progresses in flare-ups throughout life and can lead to death in 5 to 15% of cases. Although its cause remains partly mysterious, a study suggests that growing up surrounded by dogs could prevent it from occurring. This is at least the hypothesis of a new study presented this Monday, May 23 within the Digestive Disease Week.
Living with dogs between 5 and 15 years old is beneficial
“Our study appears to add to others that have explored the “hygienist hypothesis” which suggests that lack of exposure to microbes in early life may lead to a lack of immune regulation towards environmental microbes.“, revealed Williams Turpin, lead author of the study and research associate at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto.
To learn more about the origin of the disease, the researchers questioned 4,300 parents with a child affected by this chronic inflammation. They more particularly analyzed the family environment: family size, presence of dogs or cats as pets, consumption of unpasteurized milk, number of bathrooms in the house, etc. The analysis also included the participants’ age at the time of exposure.
Following this collection of data, the researchers found that exposure to dogs, between the ages of 5 and 15, was linked to healthy intestinal permeability and a balance between microbes in the intestine and the immune response. from the body. A phenomenon that could help protect against Crohn’s disease.
Owning a cat would have no impact
In contrast, exposure to cats during infancy has not been conclusive.
“We haven’t seen the same results with cats, although we’re still trying to figure out why.“, says Dr. Turpin.”This could potentially be due to dog owners going out with their pets more often or living in areas with more green space, which has already been shown to protect against Crohn’s disease.“.
Another interesting fact: according to scientists, living with three or more family members during the first year of life is a protective factor.
However, the interpretation of these results calls for caution because the causes of this association remain unclear.
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Crohn’s disease: possible treatments
Even if there is no treatment yet to cure Crohn’s disease, the current solutions make it possible to eliminate the symptoms. Depending on each situation, several types of medication can be prescribed. They are most often intended to reduce the activity of the immune system: anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants.
Apart from flare-ups, taking maintenance treatment is essential: this allows better control of the disease and avoids potential complications.
Sometimes surgical measures are considered. The most common operation is intestinal resection, which consists of removing the parts of the digestive tract affected by inflammatory or stenosing lesions (narrowing of a canal).