Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis and the intestinal microbiota in humans and dogs.


The prevalence of human and canine allergic diseases is commonly perceived to be increasing. Suggested predisposing factors in people and dogs include increased allergen load, increased exposure to pollutants, reduced family size, reduced microbial load and less exposure to infection at a young age, increasingly urbanised environment, and changes in dietary habits.

Genetic make-up may provide a template for phenotypic predisposition which is strongly influenced by our diet and environment leading to constant regulation of gene expression.

One way in which diet can alter gene expression is via its effects on the gut flora or microbiota, the collection of microbes residing in the gastrointestinal tract. The resident microbiota is important in maintaining structural and functional integrity of the gut and in immune system regulation. It is an important driver of host immunity, helps protect against invading enteropathogens, and provides nutritional benefits to the host. Disruption of the microbiota (dysbiosis) may lead to severe health problems, both in the gastrointestinal tract and extra-intestinal organ systems. The precise mechanisms by which the intestinal microbiota exerts its effects are only beginning to be unravelled but research is demonstrating close links between gut microflora and many factors involved in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis (AD).

AD and indeed any other ‘skin disease’, may be seen as a possible manifestation of a more systemic problem involving gut dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability, which may occur even in the absence of gastrointestinal signs. Manipulation of the canine intestinal microbiota as a method for modifying atopy, may be attempted in many ways including avoidance of certain foods, supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics, optimising nutrient intake, minimising stress, antimicrobial therapy, correction and prevention of low stomach acid, and faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).

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