Imagine if you could catch obesity like you can catch flu or a cold. It would mean that no matter how much exercise you did, or how closely you watched your diet, you could start to gain weight and be completely powerless to stop it.

Sound Farfetched. union city oral surgery thought so at first too, but remember that just a few years ago the idea that bacteria could be the cause of stomach ulcers would have been laughed at too. And the facts are more persuasive than you might think. Some 23% of adult Americans are classed as obese with a body mass index of over 30 and many obesity experts feel that this rise in obesity from 15% in 1980 cannot fully be explained by dietary and lifestyle changes alone.

In 1998, an Asian doctor named Hikhil Dhurandhar discovered a strain of a virus named SMAM-1 caused chickens to gain almost 50% more fat than chickens not exposed to the virus. The chickens also had lower cholesterol levels. Dhurandhar was interested enough to test the blood of 52 of his most overweight patients and discovered that 10 out of the 52 patients had SMAM-1 antibodies in their blood meaning that they had been exposed to the virus. These 10 patients were the heaviest and they also had lower cholesterol levels, than the other patients.

Other obesity researchers had already identified three other viruses that caused obesity in animals, usually by damaging the part of the brain that regulates appetite. Dhurandhar begin researching other viruses affecting humans, including a virus that caused diarrhoea, Ad-36. When chickens were injected with the virus, they gained weight and reduced cholesterol. The effect was the same with mice. Even more surprising, monkeys infected with the virus gained three times as much weight over a 6-month period than monkeys not infected. To test humans, Dhurandhar tested the blood of 313 obese people and 92 lean people in the US. They found antibodies to the Ad-36 virus in 32% of the overweight people, but only 4% of the lean people. Other viruses not shown to cause weight gain were found in similar numbers in both lean and obese subjects. The results were also shown in twins, with the twin showing antibodies to Ad-36 having a 1.5% higher body mass index than the other twin who did not have antibodies.

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