Human adenovirus-36 (left), which causes respiratory and eye infections, can also transform adult stem cells into the fat cells of adipose tissue. Scientists found that the virus has a specific gene that appears to control this fatty transformation. A previous study had found a high prevalence of adenovirus in overweight people; some 30 per cent of obese people had Ad-36 compared with 11 per cent of lean people, leading to suggestions that respiratory viruses may play an important role in triggering the tendency towards obesity in susceptible people with the sort of sedentary lifestyle that favours putting on weight.
The idea of obesity being, in some cases, the result of viral infection will be controversial. It does make me think whether an anti obesity vaccine can be too far behind. I’m sure it would be a huge money spinner.