The new study confirmed the protective effect of cat exposure for at-risk children in all but one situation: when the child's mother has asthma. If the mother has asthma, then a cat in the home actually triples the risk that a child will develop persistent wheezing -- an initial indication of asthma -- by age five.
"Asthma is a complex disease in which there appear to be many factors, both genetic and environmental," says Marshall Plaut, M.D., chief of the allergic mechanisms section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "To better understand asthma, we need studies like this one that sort out these factors and define the relationships among them."
"This study is the first to show that the effect of having a cat in the home may depend upon whether your mother has asthma or not," says lead author Juan C. Celedn, M.D., Dr.P.H., who, along with primary investigator Diane R. Gold, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues conducted the research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Details of this study will be published in the September 7 issue of The Lancet. The research was supported by NIAID and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
"For years, physicians have been advising families with allergies to stay away from pets," says Dr. Celedn. "However, it appears that for a vast majority of children, being exposed to a cat early in life may be beneficial. That said, there is a subgroup of
Contact: Gregory Roa
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases