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Contagious obesity? Identifying the human adenoviruses that may make us fat

n of human obesity, the logical therapeutic intervention would be to develop a vaccine to prevent future infections," Greenway wrote. "If a vaccine were to be developed, one would want to ensure that all the serotypes of human adenoviruses responsible for human obesity were covered in the vaccine."

"If one could predict the potential of an adenovirus to cause human obesity by using an in vitro assay or even by animal testing, screening of the approximately 50 human adenoviruses might be accelerated, shortening the time required for vaccine formulation," Greenway wrote. "Human antibody prevalence in obese and lean human populations appears to be the only reliable method to screen adenoviruses for their potential to cause obesity in humans at the present time," he noted.

Obesity contagion theory slow to catch on

The notion that viruses can cause obesity has been a contentious one among scientists, Whigham said. And yet, there is evidence that factors other than poor diet or lack of exercise may be at work in the obesity epidemic. "The prevalence of obesity has doubled in adults in the United States in the last 30 years and has tripled in children," the study noted. "With the exception of infectious diseases, no other chronic disease in history has spread so rapidly, and the etiological factors producing this epidemic have not been clearly identified."

"It makes people feel more comfortable to think that obesity stems from lack of control," Whigham said. "It's a big mental leap to think you can catch obesity." However, other diseases once thought to be the product of environmental factors are now known to stem from infectious agents. For example, ulcers were once thought to be the result of stress, but researchers eventually implicated bacteria, H. pylori, as a cause.

"The nearly simultaneous increase in the prevalence of obesity in most countries of the world is difficult to explain by changes in food intake and exercise
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Source:American Physiological Society


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