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Study Suggests Possible Role of Viral Diseases in Obesity

  August, 6 2000 9:55
your information resource in human molecular genetics

Most doctors have heard their obese patients blame their condition on their glands, or their metabolism, or their genes, but they might soon be hearing a different excuse. This time it could be that they "caught" their obesity from their spouse or a close colleague, in much the same way as they might catch a cold.

In a paper published in the August issue of International Journal of Obesity ("Increased adiposity in animals due to a human virus"; Dhurandhar et al, IJO 24(8):989-996), a group from the University of Wisconsin have shown that inoculating chickens and mice with a human adenovirus (Ad-36) causes them to gain excessive amounts of fat. Not only did they gain more than the controls, they also gained more than a group of chickens inoculated with another virus, an avian adenovirus called CELO. This indicates that the excessive fat deposition was not a non-specific effect in response to any viral infection. The mechanism causing the obesity is not known, but does not appear to be due to increased food intake and would implicate a decrease in energy expenditure as the cause.

In chickens, there was no evidence of the AD-36 virus causing damage to those parts of the brain (hypothalamus) that control energy balance. This is the first report of adiposity induced in animals by a human virus.

Data from these animal models suggest that the role of viral diseases in the etiology of human obesity must be considered.

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Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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