Texas Tech nutritional sciences professor Nik Dhurandhar wasn’t looking for a virus that causes obesity. He wanted to learn IF one did. And he succeeded. The AD36 virus and Dhurandhar’s startling research since 1995 will be spotlighted by National Geographic this fall.
Studies by research groups across every continent except Africa have brought similar findings since he confirmed that infectobesity, obesity through infection, is real.
“Now I’m not alone anymore, and I feel vindicated. Except Africa, every other continent, there have been reports about AD36 and obesity,” he says.
Dhurandhar says experiments on chickens, mice, rats and marmosets have proven that infection by AD36, which is an adenovirus, causes obesity.
The AD36 virus was injected into the animals and they became obese. In the next experiment an infected animal was placed in a cage with one that wasn’t infected. The latter became infected and grew obese.
Then, Dhurandhar did testing using blood. “So we were trying to mimic blood transfusion from an infected donor to a receiver, and we showed that you could transmit that virus, the recipient got that virus, was infected and got obesity as well.”
For ethical reasons, none of the tests done on animals were done on humans. But tests were done in humans to see if there had been any AD36 infection in the past. That’s done by testing their blood for antibodies to the AD36 virus.
The first human tests looked at those who had AD36 antibodies versus those who did not have the antibodies.
“”Turns out in many, many experiments that we did, and many other experiments that other research groups have done all over the world, that if you are exposed to AD36, your chance of having obesity are two to three fold higher,” he explains.
Next, 1,500 subjects, some who had AD36 antibodies and some who didn’t, were followed for 10 years. “Our hypothesis was that at baseline, those who were AD36 positive, will gain more body fat at the end of ten years, compared to those who are negative,” he says. “That is exactly what the case was.”
The third experiment used 27 pairs of twins had discordant results, meaning one twin had AD36 antibodies from past infection and the other did not.
“Our hypothesis was that if this virus, AD36, has anything to do with body weight, the twin that has AD36 infection will be heavier, compared to its own twin that doesn’t have AD36 infection. And that’s exactly what we found.”
The virus’ mechanism works in the body through stem cells, a type of cell that can produce other cells which are able to develop into any kind of cell in the body. Fat cells contain stem cells.
“This virus goes to these stem cells, infects these stem cells, increases their replication, so you have more number of stem cells and then turns them to become fat cells,” he says. “So you have more number of stem cells that become fat cells and then they accumulate more fat.”
Stimulating a stem cell inside a fat cell to become a bone cell failed once Dhurandhar injected the bone cell with the AD36 virus. It instead became fat cells.
He stresses that there are other microbes and reasons both internal and external that people become obese. AD36 is just one way.