Everyone knows dogs are man's best friend, but it turns out they could be man's best health secret, too.
An upcoming study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Arizona will determine whether dog saliva can boost the human immune system.
According to Daily Mail, the volunteers for the study must be at least 50 years old, in good health, not have taken antibiotics in the last six months and not have lived with a dog for at least six months.
As a plus, the participants will be able to select a dog of their choice to live in their home for three months and have the option to adopt their furry friend after the research concludes.
Researchers, led by professor of psychiatry Dr. Charles Raison, will then monitor the impact the dogs are having on participants' immune system responses such as sneezing, itching and other allergic reactions.
Researcher Kim Kelly posed the question:
We've co-evolved with dogs over the millennia, but nobody really understands what it is about this dog-human relationship that makes us feel good about being around dogs. Is it just that they're fuzzy and we like to pet them, or is there something else going on under the skin?
The theory being tested posits bacteria in dog saliva improves the health of bacteria found in the human gut.
Dogs can spread these microorganisms by licking people, themselves, and their environment.
Dr. Raison explained,
These bacteria, or microbiota, are increasingly recognized as playing an essential role in our mental and physical health, especially as we age.
Dogs and humans carry a lot of the same bacteria in their guts, and previous research has shown dogs can decrease a child's risk of developing asthma and allergies.
Dr. Raison told ABC News he believes one of the reasons such immune problems have increased as of late is that humans aren't coming into contact with enough beneficial bacteria like the kind found in dogs.
He intends to conduct a similar study afterward with children.