Infectobesity, Obesity Caused by Viral Infection

A Health and Wellness Essay.

Infectobesity, a term coined by Nikhil Dhurandhar, refers to obesity due to a chronic viral infection.

Photo by Christopher Williams on Unsplash

For some of the 58 million overweight Americans, their diet is the problem, for others it is a lack of adequate exercise but for a percent, according to Dhurandhar’s research, the excess weight could be virus related.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is calling obesity an epidemic, a term often associated with infections.

In a 2004 article from Drug News Perspectives, entitled “Contribution of pathogens in human obesity”, Dhurandhar lists, “seven pathogens reported to cause obesity in animals. Canine distemper virus was the first reported obesity-promoting virus. Rous-associated virus-7, an avian retrovirus, causes stunted growth, obesity and hyperlipidemia in chickens. Borna disease virus was noted to cause obesity in rats. Scrapie agents were reported to induce obesity in mice. These pathogens appear to produce obesity by damaging the central nervous system.” (Dhurandhar, 2004)

Viral Infectionby CDC on Unsplash


The other three viruses are adenoviruses, which according to the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), “there are 49 immunologically distinct types (6 subgenera: A through F) that can cause human infections.” The CDC links adenoviruses with respiratory illness (such as the common cold, pneumonia, croup, bronchitis), gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis (inflamation in the eye), cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), and rash illness.

Acute respiratory disease (ARD), first recognized among military recruits during World War II, can be caused by adenovirus infections during conditions of crowding and stress. Other researchers have linked adenovirus with toxic shock syndrome. (Price, 2001)

There can also be a relationship between viral infections and bacterial infections, which combine to irritate the immune system. In a 2005 study, Fejer noted a “remarkable synergism” of adenoviruses and bacteria related lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in triggering the production of Tumor Necrotising Factor (TNF) in intact animals. They concluded, “We suggest that the phenomenon is probably a general one: an overlap between different molecular mechanisms detecting bacterial and viral pathogens and inducing mediators of nonspecific cell-mediated host defense. The synergism of viruses and LPS (bacteria) could be a concern in medical practice as well as in gene therapy experiments with high doses of recombinant adenoviruses.” 5 (Fejer, 2005). Researchers are also looking to use adenoviruses as carriers in the bird flu vaccine. (usinfo, 2007)

Chronic Viral Infections

The CDC has reports that adenoviruses (Virus Images) can be chronic in nature and acquired early in childhood. “Some types are capable of establishing persistent asymptomatic infections in tonsils, adenoids, and intestines of infected hosts, and shedding can occur for months or years. Some adenoviruses (e.g., serotypes 1, 2, 5, and 6) have been shown to be endemic in parts of the world where they have been studied, and infection is usually acquired during childhood.”

This would fit the profile of some people struggling with weight related issues. Dhurandhar noted, the adenoviruses SMAM-1 and Ad-36 are associated with obesity in humans.


Management of adenovirus symptoms or no treatment is standard, according to the CDC. “Most infections are mild and require no therapy or only symptomatic treatment. Because there is no virus-specific therapy, serious adenovirus illness can be managed only by treating symptoms and complications of the infection.” In general, of course, there are several ways to deal with viruses.

1. Avoid contact with the virus. Prevention is the great approach, although for many people either they have already been exposed or their busy lifestyle brings them in contact with a variety of people and situations.

2. Vaccines are an option for some viral infections, but in the case of the common cold and other adenoviruses, this is not a solution.

3. The best option is to develop a healthy immune system that can deal with anything you may come in contact.

A Healthy Immune System

Lots of options in the development of a healthy immune system, including a healthy diet (Mouth Revolution) that provides enough vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, antioxidants and is low in pesticides, additives, and allergens.

There should be nutritional and lifestyle support for the adrenal glands. These are the organs that sit on top of the kidneys and react when we come in contact with stressful situations. Neurofascial Process is a good way to support the adrenal glands and overall health. Further information is available in the book Body Wisdom. (Weiselfish-Giammatteo, 2002)

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Hands On Care fo the Immune System

There are a number of hands-on therapies that support the immune system: massage therapy (Shor-Posner, 2006); (Field, 2005) and (Hernandez-Reif, 2004); Integrative Manual Therapy (Burnham, 2007) and (Giammtteo, 2005); Qigong (Lee, 2003) and (Lee, 2005); Reflexology (Lee, 2006); Osteopathic Manual Therapy (Noll, 2004), and acupuncture. (Karst, 2003).

Imagery (Richardson, 1997) and Laughter (Berk, 2001) are cheap and easy ways to help improve our immune system and bring a sense of wellbeing.

So, if you want to live well at a healthy weight: eat healthy, exercise and take care of your immune system.

Originally published at Suite 101 on February 23, 2007.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kimberly Burnham

Writer, Poet, Ekphrastic Writer-in-Residence, Nerve Whisperer, Brain Health Coach, Author of The Traveling Brain: Illuminating Peace Poetry in 5000 Languages.