Childhood Obesity Linked to AD36 Virus
Research shows childhood obesity that is becoming exceedingly prevalent could be linked to a specific virus. The findings are supported by the presence of AD36 antibodies – a type of adenovirus – found in a study of 124 children.
Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine studied children age 8 to 18 for the presence of the AD36 virus that is currently linked to obesity. Adenovirus exposure is common in children. According to the CDC the virus commonly causes respiratory infection but can also cause gastroenteritis, bladder and eye infection and rash-type illness.
Past studies have shown a connection between obesity and the virus that is one of 52 subtypes of adenovirus. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found a three-fold incidence of weight gain in primates infected with AD36.
Children with Virus Antibodies 50 Pounds Heavier
The scientists found that children with the virus antibody weighed an average of 50 pounds more than children testing negative for adenovirus 36. Children with active infection weighed 35 pounds more than those who tested negative.
"This amount of extra weight is a major concern at any age, but is especially so for a child," said Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego, who is also director of Weight and Wellness at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. "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."
Schwimmer adds the findings could help target a possible cause of childhood obesity that may be more complex than previously believed.
"Many people believe that obesity is one's own fault or the fault of one's parents or family. 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."
The virus causes fat cells to multiply more rapidly and spread, found in cell cultures. The discovery could mean the virus has lasting effects on metabolism, contributing to childhood obesity, though more studies are needed to understand how the adenovirus affects different individuals.
According to background information from the study, 17 percent of American children and adolescents are obese. Exposure to or active infection with AD36 virus is now implicated as a possible cause for obesity in children, defined as body mass index above the 85 percentile.