American Journal of Medical Sciences and Medicine
ISSN (Print): 2327-6681 ISSN (Online): 2327-6657 Website: Editor-in-chief: Apply for this position
Open Access
Journal Browser
American Journal of Medical Sciences and Medicine. 2015, 3(4), 56-60
DOI: 10.12691/ajmsm-3-4-4
Open AccessReview Article

Infectious Concept of Obesity: Review Article

Waleed S. Mohamed1, and Khaled A. Alswat1

1Internal Medicine Department, College of Medicine, Taif University

Pub. Date: November 03, 2015

Cite this paper:
Waleed S. Mohamed and Khaled A. Alswat. Infectious Concept of Obesity: Review Article. American Journal of Medical Sciences and Medicine. 2015; 3(4):56-60. doi: 10.12691/ajmsm-3-4-4


Obesity is currently experiencing an epidemic as declared by the World Health Organization. Obesity has multiple etiologies, one of them an infection. Many microbes are linked to obesity both in animals and human, but conclusive evidence for its role in human is lacking. At least, six pathogens are reported to cause obesity in animals. Canine distemper virus was discovered as the first virus reported to cause obesity in mice, followed by Rous-associated virus-7, which has been shown to cause obesity and hyperlipidemia in chickens. The obesity-promoting effect of Borna disease virus was demonstrated in rats. Scrapie agent was reported to increase the risk of obesity in mice and hamsters. The last two reports were of SMAM-1 and Ad-36, a human adenovirus that caused obesity in animals. An association with human obesity is the unique feature of SMAM-1 and Ad-36. Human studies are less convincing; but two adenoviruses, Ad-36 and SMAM-1, did show adipogenic properties. It is clear that in response to certain infections, adipose tissue expands similar to the expansion of cells of the immune system. In vitro studies with 3T3-L1 cells stated the activation of the enzymatic pathway that leads to fatty tissue accumulation; also higher levels of antibodies against such viruses in obese subjects were detected in vivo studies. Also, recent studies showed that C. pneumoniae and H. pylori are also associated with human obesity. This review discusses the related published data as well as the characteristics of pathogens that may be implicated in obesity.

obesity infection virus

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[1]  Shayo G and Mugusi F. Prevalence of obesity and associated risk factors among adults in Kinondoni municipal district, Dar Es-Salaam Tanzania. BMC Public Health 2011; 11:365.
[2]  Anonymous 2000 Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic: report of a WHO consultation. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser 894: i-xii, 1-253.
[3]  Flegal K, Graubard B, Williamson D, Gail M. Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity. JAMA 2005; 293:1861-7.
[4]  Ducimetiere P, Richard J, Cambien, F. The pattern of subcutaneous fat distribution in middle-aged men and the risk of coronary heart disease: the Paris Prospective Study. Int J Obes 1986; 10:229-40.
[5]  Ogden C, Yanovski S, Carroll M and Flegal K. The Epidemiology of Obesity. Gastroenterology 2007; 132:2087-102.
[6]  Ogden C, Carrol M, Brian M, Flegal M. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA 2014; Volume 311, Number 8, 806-14.
[7]  Alsaif M, Hakim I, Harris R, Alduwaihy M, Al-Rubeaan K, Al-Nuaimd A, Al-Attas O. Prevalence and risk factors of obesity and overweight in adult Saudi population. Nutrition Research 2002; 1243-52.
[8]  Dhurandhar N, Atkinson R, Ahmed A. Obesity of infectious origin – A review. GGH 2004; Vol. 20, No. 3 September, 33-9.
[9]  Sclafani A. Int J Obesity 1984; 8:491-508.
[10]  Azad M, Bridgman S, Becker A, Kozyrskyj A. Infant antibiotic exposure and the development of childhood overweight and central adiposity. Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Oct; 38(10): 1290-8.
[11]  Murphy R, Stewart A, Braithwaite I, Beasley R, Hancox R, Mitchell E. Antibiotic treatment during infancy and increased body mass index in boys: an international cross-sectional study. Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Aug; 38(8): 1115-9.
[12]  Boursi B, Mamtani R, Haynes K, Yang Y. The effect of past antibiotic exposure on diabetes risk. Eur J Endocrinol. 2015 Jun; 172(6): 639-48.
[13]  Marra F, Lynd L, Coombes M, Richardson K, Legal M, Fitzgerald JM, Marra CA. Does antibiotic exposure during infancy lead to development of asthma? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Chest. 2006 Mar; 129(3): 610-8.
[14]  Riley L, Raphael E, Faerstein E. Obesity in the United States – Dysbiosis from Exposure to Low-Dose Antibiotics. Frontiers in Public Health. 2013; 1: 69.
[15]  Lajunen T, Bloigu A, Paldanius M, Pouta A, Laitinen J,et al., The association of body mass index, waist and hip circumference, and waist–hip ratio with Chlamydia pneumoniae IgG antibodies and high-sensitive C-reactive protein at 31 years of age in Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. International Journal of Obesity December 2011; 35, 1470-8.
[16]  Boltin D and Niv Y. Ghrelin, Helicobacter pylori and Body Mass? Is There an Association. IMAJ 2012; February, Vol 14, 130-2.
[17]  Na H, Nam J. Infectobesity: a New Area for Microbiological and Virological Research. Journal of Bacteriology and Virology 2011. Vol. 41, No. 2, 65-76
[18]  Human Microbiome Project Consortium. Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature. 2012; 486 (7402): 207-14.
[19]  Turnbaugh P, Ley R, Mahowald M, Magrini V, Mardis E, Gordon J. “An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest,” Nature 2006; vol. 444(7122), 1027-31.
[20]  Jumpertz R., Le D, Turnbaugh P et al., “Energy-balance studies reveal associations between gut microbes, caloric load, and nutrient absorption in humans,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011; vol. 94(1), 58-65.
[21]  Furet J, Kong L, Tap J, et al. Differential Adaptation of Human Gut Microbiota to Bariatric Surgery–Induced Weight Loss: Links with Metabolic and Low-Grade Inflammation Markers. Diabetes. 2010; 59(12): 3049-57.
[22]  Dhurandhar NV, Whigham LD, Abbot DH, Schultz-Darken NJ, Israel BA, Bradley SM, et al. Human adenovirus Ad-36 promotes weight gain in male rhesus and marmoset monkeys. J Nutr. 2002; 132(10):3155-60.
[23]  Atkinson RL, Dhurandhar NV, Allison DB, Bowen RL, Israel BA, Albu JB, et al. Human adenovirus-36 is associated with increased body weight and paradoxical reduction of serum lipids. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2005; 29(3):281-6.
[24]  Vangipuram SD, Yu M, Tian J, Stanhope KL, Pasarica M, Havel PJ, et al. Adipogenic human adenovirus-36 reduces leptin expression and secretion and increases glucose uptake by fat cells. Int J Obes. 2007; 31(1):87-96.
[25]  Whigham LD, Israel BA, Atkinson RL. Adipogenic potential of multiple human adenoviruses in vivo and in vitro in animals. Am J Physiol. 2006; 290 (1): R190-4.
[26]  So PW, Herlihy AH, Bell JD. Adiposity induced by adenovirus 5 inoculations. Int J Obes. 2005; 29(6): 603-6.
[27]  Jhonson JA, Heneine W. Characterization of endogenous avian leukosis viruses in chicken embryonic fibroblast substrates used in production of measles and mumps vaccines. J Virol. 2001; 75(8):3605-12.
[28]  Lacerda S, Bornschein A. Infections as the etiology of obesity. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metab. 2009; 53/2: 159-64.
[29]  Dhurandhar N, Kulkarni P, Ajiinkya S, Sherikar A, Atkinson R. Association of adenovirus infection with human obesity. Obes Res. 1997; 5(5):464-9.
[30]  Lyons M, Faust I, Hemmes R, Buskirk D, Hirsch J, Zabrikie J. A virally induced obesity syndrome in mice. Science. 1982; 216(4541):82-5.
[31]  Selby P, Davies M, Mee A. Canine Distemper Virus Induces Human Osteoclastogenesis through NF-κB and Sequestosome 1/P62 Activation. Journal of bone and mineral research, 2006; Vol 21 (11), 1750-6.
[32]  Brück W. The pathology of multiple sclerosis is the result of focal inflammatory demyelination with axonal damage. Journal of Neurology 2005; 252:3-9.
[33]  Carter J, Ow C, Smith R. Rous-associated virus type 7 induces a syndrome in chickens characterized by stunting and obesity. Infect Immun1983; 39: 410-22.
[34]  Bode L, Ludwig H. Borna disease vírus infection, a human mental-health risk. Clin icrobiol Ver. 2003; 16(3):534-45.
[35]  So P, Herlihy A, Bell J. Adiposity induced by adenovirus 5 inoculations. Int J Obes. 2005; 29(6):603-6.
[36]  Pasarica M, Shin A, Yu M, Ou Yang HM, Rathod M, Jen KL, et al. Human adenovirus 36 induces adiposity, increases insulin sensitivity, and alters hypothalamic monoamines in rats. Obesity. 2006; 14(11):1905-13.
[37]  Bode L, Ludwig H. Borna disease virus infection, a human mental-health risk. Clin Microbiol Rev 2003; 16: 534-45.
[38]  Dhurandhar N. Infectobesity: Obesity of Infectious Origin. J. Nutr. 2001; 131: 2794S-7S.
[39]  Wellen K, Hotamisligil G. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 2005; Volume 115(5): 1111-9.
[40]  Vangipuram SD, Sheele J, Atkinson RL, Holland TC, Dhurandhar NV. A human adenovirus enhances preadipocyte differentiation. Obe Res. 2004; 12(5):770-7.
[41]  Dart A, Martin J, Kay S. Association between past infection with Chlamydia pneumoniae and body mass index, low density lipoprotein particle size and fasting insulin. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2002; 26: 464-8.