Meanwhile, URECA continues to monitor the group for more information on which early-life factors influence the development of asthma, a disease that affects more than eight percent of USA children.
Contact with cats, dogs, mice and cockroaches by age three months was linked to a lower chance of having asthma by age seven, found researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the US Department of Health.
"New parents may weigh many factors when deciding whether to have a pet in the home, but findings from this and other studies suggest that exposure to pets in infancy may be beneficial to prevent development of asthma and allergies later in childhood", said Gergen.
"We are learning more and more about how the early-life environment can influence the development of certain health conditions", said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
Asthma is a chronic disease that intermittently inflames and narrows the airways, causing wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and a tight chest.
The URECA study investigates risk factors for asthma among children living in urban areas, where the disease is more prevalent and severe. More than 500 newborns from Baltimore, Boston, New York City and St. Louis have been enrolled in the URECA study since 2005. Study investigators have been following the children since birth, and the current research report evaluates the group through 7 years of age.
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Among 442 children for whom researchers had enough data to assess asthma status at age 7 years, 130 children (29 percent) had asthma. The researchers sampled dust in their homes, looking for allergens, and found that exposure to cat, mouse, and cockroach allergens before the age of 3 reduces the likelihood of getting asthma by age 7. They collected dust from their homes when they were aged 3 months, 2 years, and 3 years.
There's another reason why furry pets are good companions: to reduce the risk of developing asthma, according to new research.
"This study revealed a link between exposure to allergens early in life and a reduced risk of developing asthma in the first place". The findings released this week indicate exposure to certain types of bacteria early in life could influence the development of the chronic disease.
"However, additional research is needed to clarify the potential roles of these microbial exposures in asthma development", researchers said.
"Additional research may help us identify specific targets for asthma prevention strategies", Gern added. Maternal stress and depression reported during the first three years of the child's life also were associated with an increased risk of developing childhood asthma. By dividing the children into groups based on characteristics of their allergies and asthma, the scientists hope to uncover additional information about which early-life factors influence development of allergic or non-allergic asthma.
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