My name is Ian Tizard and I am a professor of immunology at Texas A&M University.
My specific interests, and what I'm going to talk about today, are allergies in animals.
Because just as allergies have grown in importance in the human population,
they have also grown in importance in our pets and domestic animals.
One obvious question is:
why has this happened?
It appears that the answer is,
we're simply too clean.
The reason why we believe that allergies have
increased so dramatically in modern society,
is encapsulated in what is known as 'the hygiene hypothesis'.
This simply says, Western lifestyles have messed up the control of our immune system.
You've probably realized that our intestine is loaded
with millions or billions of bacteria,
and those bacteria signal to the immune system.
They release molecules that turn on the immune system,
molecules that determine what immune response we mount.
It appears that with our Western lifestyle,
the microbes in our intestine are sending the wrong message to our immune system.
As a result, our immune system is
(as it were) 'misbehaving',
and that misbehavior is exemplified by the growing prevalence of allergic diseases.
As I said, it happens not just in humans,
but also in our domestic pets.