Do cats protect against neurodermatitis?



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Neurodermatitis prevention

Do cats protect against neurodermatitis?
07.12.2010
As part of an observational study, researchers from the University of Zurich found that the proximity of farm animals and cats has a preventive effect in neurodermatitis. However, the scientists were unable to determine the causes of this in their study.

The observational study on 1,063 children from rural regions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Finland showed that pregnant women who live in the vicinity of cats or farm animals use them to protect their children from eczema, according to the study director Caroline Roduit from the University of Zurich on the current publication of the study results in the journal "Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology". Caroline Roduit added: “Since it was an observational study, the exact relationships for protection cannot be clarified. However, we found several environmental factors that have a preventive effect. ”

Life on the farm protects against allergies Of the 1,063 children examined, every second came from a farming family, so that contact with farm animals and cats during pregnancy was not uncommon for mothers. The scientists now came to the conclusion that children whose mothers had lived near farm animals or cats during pregnancy are at significantly lower risk of neurodermatitis in the first two years of life. The fact that farm children are rarely plagued by allergies has long been undisputed among experts, although the causes of this preventive effect have so far remained unclear. Various factors, such as a recently discovered vegetable sugar molecule in hay, which is said to reduce the risk of allergy, are being discussed as decisive factors in the preventive effect of farm life. What is certain is that children of mothers who lived on a farm during pregnancy also enjoy appropriate protection.

Proximity to cats protects against eczema The current observational study by the research team led by Caroline Roduit has now shown that not only life on the farm but also the proximity of mothers-to-be to cats reduces the risk of eczema. The result of the study is surprising, as cats have always been considered potential risk factors for allergies. So far, pregnant women have been advised to avoid cat hair in order to prevent child allergies. In view of the current study results, this thesis is no longer tenable. Although the researchers can “make no recommendation without knowing the mechanism of action”, “a cat does not have adverse effects on the development of neurodermatitis (…)”, the scientists explained when they published their latest study results. "This means that cat owners do not have to separate from their pets during pregnancy," added Caroline Roduit. In addition, the scientists had "(could) identify two genes, the expression of which means that children hardly develop allergies," explained Roduit.

Up to 20 percent of children suffer from eczema. Atopic eczema, known as eczema, is characterized by red, flaky, partially oozing eczema on the skin accompanied by a strong itching sensation. A batch-wise course of the disease is typical. According to the health authorities, up to 20 percent of children in developed countries are affected by neurodermatitis, with the disease occurring in around 60 percent of those affected in the first year of life and in 90 percent by the age of five. The spread of atopic eczema has increased significantly since the middle of the 20th century, and neurodermatitis is now about four to six times more common than 50 years ago. A complex interplay of genetic factors, immunological changes and environmental influences is considered to be decisive for the occurrence of neurodermatitis. For example, constant contact with flour, disinfectants or cleaning agents, or even excessive hygiene, can lead to the disease, explained the scientists led by Caroline Roduit. (fp)

Photo credit: Thorsten Müller / pixelio.de

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