The Microbes You Share

Dogs and their owners share microbiota.

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Our animal companions can

Our animal companions can also provide us the opportunity to become immunized against many pathogens. Edward Jenner recognized how milk maids were less likely to develop small pox around 200 years ago. During the SARS epidemic in 2003, with the rapid sequencing of the SARS coronavirus genome, it was feasible to produce peptide arrays with the staggered and overlapping SARS virus protein sequences. Probing these peptide arrays with the serum of recovering SARS patients from Toronto revealed that they had developed antibodies against distinct epitopes from several of the coronavirus proteins. Remarkably, a few of the control individuals who had never been exposed to the virus back in Vancouver also showed the same strong immunoreactivities with their serum. It turns out that these were cat owners. The human SARS virus has since been thought to originate from civet cats and more recently bats.