I'd be bugged too, or would I?

I picked up the Wall Street Journal this morning and saw an article, "Virus linked to Obesity." The virus in question is called adenovirus 36, or Ad-36 for short and, when I started combing medical articles, was first found in 1978 in the feces of a girl with a bowel disease. Its kin cause respiratory, eye and bowel infections, but Ad-36 is the only known virus that can attack fat cells directly.

There are a host of articles on Ad-36 and similar viruses; many of them associating it with obesity in other species, chickens and mice among them. Several studies have found antibodies to Ad-36 in humans, more freqently in those who are obese.

An article that was just published online in the journal Pediatrics is causing quite a stir. That came from a pediatric subspecialist in San Diego and studied Ad-36 antibodies in obese and non-obese children aged 8 to 18. Of the 124 kids in the study group, over half were obese and of that group 22% had antibodies to Ad-36. This is in contrast to 7% of the non-obese group, so 78% of the kids who were Ad-36 positive were obese

Now there are articles out there that don't support the same linkage. Another San Diego group, this one a US Navy research unit studied 300 military subjects, half of whom were lean and half obese, and found antibodies to Ad-36 in 34% of the obese group vs. 39% of the lean group. That article was published last November in the Journal of Obesity.

The animal research seems to imply that Ad-36 infection can lead to obesity and maybe that's true in people also. The question in humans remains as to which came first, the obesity or the infection.

And we shouldn't forget that only 30% or thereabouts of obese people in these research papers had the antibodies. If Ad-36 does lead to weight gain in humans, what about the other 70%?

This is a fascinating new subject and isn't confined to the us.  Antibodies to Ad-36 have been found in Australia and England as well. I'm sure we'll be hearing hear more about viral infections and their link to our obesity epidemic.

2 Responses to “I'd be bugged too, or would I?”

  1. Angela says:

    I read some research summaries of this issue in the really interesting book _Rethinking Thin_, by a NYTimes science writer whose name is currently escaping me--pretty interesting stuff, even if it is only implicated in some cases.

    I teach an online class related to food and culture and would love to link your blog for my students, as you cover so many issues of interest to their topics. I think they would glean a lot of good info.

  2. Peter Springberg says:

    Thanks, Angela,

    I'd be happy for your students to read my blog; the topics are variegated as I read fairly widely.


Leave a Reply