Could pets offer “probiotic” benefits to their owners?
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) are set to investigate whether pets could be a source of microbiota that can help restore deficiencies in their owner’s gut microbiome (i.e. collection of microbes in the intestines).
The study, which has received funding from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), will follow pet owners (60 years or older) who are taking antibiotics for dental implant placement. Antibiotics disrupt the native gut microbiome, HABRI reports, which can result in adverse outcomes, ranging from mild diarrhea to severe “C. diff” (Clostridioides difficile) infection.
Researchers hypothesize the gut microbiomes of owners and their pets will resemble each other prior to the course of antibiotics, diverge during the disruption phase, then steadily converge during the recovery phase.
“A growing number of studies have documented the ability of animal contact to impact the human microbiome in ways that may help prevent certain types of disease, such as cardiovascular disease and asthma,” says principal investigator, Laurel Redding, VMD, PhD, DACVPM, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Penn Vet. “In conducting this study, our goal is to shed light on the microbial exchanges that occur between pets and pet owners and assess whether pets can mitigate disruption of their owner’s gut microbiome following antibiotic therapy.”
Researchers say the study’s results could support the promotion of contact between older adults and household pets, HABRI reports.
“HABRI is proud to fund research that will contribute to our understanding of the physiological health benefits of the human-animal bond,” says the group’s president, Steven Feldman. “We know pets and people are good for each other, and it’s exciting we can still discover new evidence underlying this powerful, mutually-beneficial relationship.”