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February 19, 2003

Exposure to Pets in Childhood and Risk of Atopic DisordersExposure to Pets in Childhood and Risk of Atopic Disorders

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(7):841-843. doi:10.1001/jama.289.7.841-a

To the Editor: In his Editorial accompanying the article of Dr Ownby and colleagues, Dr Platts-Mills1 did not discuss the hygiene hypothesis2 as an explanation for their results.

The hygiene hypothesis posits an inverse relationship between the incidence of infectious diseases in early infancy and the subsequent development of allergies, asthma, and atopic disease. It is possible that this relationship may include not only specific infectious diseases in childhood, but also more general microbial burdens in early life. These may interact with genetic susceptibility to determine the extent of later atopic disease. The hypothesis has widespread implications for the increasing number of antibacterial products on the market, which may paradoxically increase the prevalence of atopic disease.

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