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A Microbial Look At How Dogs May Affect …their owner's health

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Those of us who use personal hand sanitizers may not want to hear this, but no matter how much you use, you’re still going to be covered in bacteria. In fact, Rob Knight, a leading expert of the study of microbes at the University of California, San Diego, says we have more bacterial cells and bacterial genes than we have human cells and genes.

"So, sometimes it freaks people out to think, oh, I’m covered in bacteria or that I have bacteria inside me. But the good news is that the vast majority of the bacterial that are associated with us are harmless or beneficial."

Knight, who co-founded the American Gut Project, says dog owners share similar microbial populations with their pooches, which raises questions about how one’s dog may affect their health.

"Can you see consistent microbial changes that are involved with things like improvements in cardiovascular properties? Improvements in stress levels, mental health? Where surprisingly, all of those things have been linked to the microbiome, so there might be some direct microbial mediators of some of those effects. It’s not that we think that microbes do everything, but it would be very interesting if we could find that microbes play a specific role in some of those health benefits, of having a pet."

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