Anchor lead: Do dog bacteria account for a reduced risk for schizophrenia? Elizabeth Tracey reports
Having a dog very early in life can reduce the risk for developing schizophrenia by about 40%, a study by Robert Yolken and colleagues at Johns Hopkins shows. Yolken says two factors he’d really like to measure are the dog’s impact on a person’s resident bacteria, known as the microbiome, as well as effects on the immune system.
Yolken: One of the data would be that the dog contributes to the microbiome of the children or somehow stimulates the immune system, and therefore this provides a protective effect. The microbiome hypothesis is probably closer to what we’re seeing than the hygiene hypothesis involving allergy and exposures because we did not see a protective effect of cats. We think the difference probably has to do with the microbiome. The dog microbiome is quite different from the cat microbiome. Cats are carnivores, dogs are omnivores, and there are many studies suggesting different microbiomes, that is the bacteria are different. :30
Yolken says for now, he would not counsel parents to acquire a dog to protect their child from schizophrenia. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.