OBESITY can be “caught” as easily as a common cold from other people’s coughs, sneezes and dirty hands, scientists claimed today.
Researchers believe that an airborne “adenovirus” germ could be causing the fat plague that is blighting Britain and other countries. Studies on humans show that 33 per cent of obese adults had contracted AD-36 at some point in their lives, compared with only 11 per cent of lean men and women.
Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar, of Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana, US, who led the research, said AD-36 continued to add weight gain long after those infected had seemingly recovered.
His studies indicated that the virus lingers for up to three months, during which time it multiplies fat and is contagious to others.
Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar said: “When AD-36 goes to fat tissue it replicates, making more copies of itself and in the process increases the number of new fat cells, which may explain why people get fat when they are infected with this virus.” The findings were welcomed by some medical experts, although others sounded a note of caution.
Dr Shahrad Taheri, clinical director for obesity at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, said: “Most people believe obesity is caused by environmental factors.
“But there is a lot of information about how things like the furring up of arteries could be linked to infections. It is not beyond reason to think about various different factors, including infections, adding into the mix about what causes obesity.”