Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Common Virus Boosts Fat-Cell Production -- and Makes Fat Cells Fatter

Aug. 20, 2007 - Infection with a virus linked to human obesity ups fat-cell production and makes fat cells fatter.

"Infectobesity" is the term coined by Louisiana State University researcher Nikhil Dhurandhar, PhD, and colleagues to describe the phenomenon. Their research strongly links a common human virus -- adenovirus-36 or Ad-36 -- to human obesity.

Previous research showed that nearly 30% of obese people, but only 11% of lean people, have been infected with Ad-36. Monkeys experimentally infected with Ad-36 gain significant weight.

Now Dhurandhar's team finds evidence that Ad-36 has a direct effect on human fat cells. Infection of adult stem cells from human fat triggers their transition into pre-fat cells. And these virus-infected cells hold much more fat than normal pre-fat cells.

The end result: more, fatter fat cells.

Dhurandhar colleague Magdalena Pasarica, MD, PhD, presented the findings at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, held Aug. 19-23 in Boston.

"We're not saying that a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections," Pasarica says in a news release. "We would ultimately like to identify the underlying factors that predispose some obese people to [the effects of] this virus and eventually find a way to treat it."

It's not entirely clear how the virus acts on fat stem cells. But Pasarica reported a major clue: One specific Ad-36 gene, called E4Orfl, is responsible for the virus's obesity-related effects.

The researchers are now trying to figure out why some people seem to become obese after Ad-36 infection while others don't.

There are some 50 adenovirus strains. Various strains cause some 5% of respiratory infections every year, ranging from mild colds to serious pneumonia. Some of these viruses also cause eye infections. Ad-36 was originally isolated from a German girl with diabetes; however, it has not been linked to any specific disease.

A vaccine, used by the military, can prevent some types of adenovirus infection. However, the adenovirus strains used in this vaccine are very different from the Ad-36 strain.

Dhurandhar first became interested in obesity-related viruses while working in India. There he investigated a peculiar phenomenon: Chickens infected with a deadly avian adenovirus became fatter, not thinner, before they died.

When Dhurandhar moved to the U.S. to pursue his studies, he found that agriculture authorities were not going to allow him to import the chicken virus. So he began looking for human adenovirus strains that might have the same effect. That led to the discovery of the obesity-related effects of Ad-36.

Interestingly, other researchers have implicated another human adenovirus -- Ad-37 -- in human obesity.

WebMD Health News

Healthy Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

Top searches: Chicken, Chocolate, Salad, Desserts, Soup

Heart Rate Calculator

Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...