September 21, 2010

Childhood Virus to Blame for Obesity?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Could virus cause obesity? New research shows having one particular virus -- known as adenovirus 36 (AD36) -- may increase a child's risk of becoming obese.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine tested 124 children who were between ages 8 and 18 for AD36 -- one of more than 50 strains of the adenovirus, which is known to cause respiratory, gastrointestinal and other infections. AD36 is the only human adenovirus currently linked to human obesity.

They found antibodies specific for AD36 in 19 of the children. About 78 percent of the AD36-positive kids were obese. Children who were AD36-positive also weighed an average of 50 pounds more than those who were AD36-negative. In the group of obese children, AD36-positive kids weighed an average of 35 pounds more compared to obese kids without the virus.

"This amount of extra weight is a major concern at any age, but is especially so for a child," Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, M.D., an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego, was quoted as saying. "Obesity can be a marker for future health problems like heart disease, liver disease and diabetes. An extra 35 to 50 pounds is more than enough to greatly increase those risks."

This new research could also shift some of the burden that falls on obese children. "Many people believe that obesity is one's own fault or the fault of one's parents or family," Dr. Schwimmer said. "This work helps point out that body weight is more complicated than it's made out to be, and it is time that we move away from assigning blame in favor of developing a level of understanding that will better support efforts at both prevention and treatment. These data add credence to the concept that an infection can be a cause or contributor to obesity."

SOURCE: Pediatrics, September 20, 2010