Scientists from the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Centre (COPSAC) have determined that, when newborns are exposed to cats, a gene that doubles their risk of asthma is never activated.
The COPSAC team was surprised by the finding, not because it will lead to any new asthma treatments, but because it demonstrates how asthma genes can be 'switched on and off by environmental factors.'
'It documents the interplay between genetics and the environment we live in, and in particular that this occurs very early in life, both during pregnancy and in the home,' said paediatrics professor Hans Bisgaard, head of COPSAC and author of the study, reported ScienceNordic.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, didn’t conclude how cats decrease the presence of the asthma gene. However, it did find that dogs didn’t have the same effect.
It's not the first time that studies have found exposure to pets (and their accompanying dust and germs) decreases a child's risk of developing asthma and boosts the immune system.