Increased adiposity in animals due to a human virus

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Aug;24(8):989-96. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801319.


Background: Four animal models of virus-induced obesity including adiposity induced by an avian adenovirus have been described previously. This is the first report of adiposity induced in animals by a human virus.

Objective: We investigated the adiposity promoting effect of a human adenovirus (Ad-36) in two different animal models.

Design: Due to the novel nature of the findings we replicated the experiments using a chicken model three times and a mammal model once. In four separate experiments, chickens and mice were inoculated with human adenovirus Ad-36. Weight matched groups inoculated with tissue culture media were used as non-infected controls in each experiment. Ad-36 inoculated and uninfected control groups were housed in separate rooms under biosafety level 2 or better containment. The first experiment included an additional weight matched group of chickens that was inoculated with CELO (chick embryo lethal orphan virus), an avian adenovirus. Food intakes and body weights were measured weekly. At the time of sacrifice blood was drawn and visceral fat was carefully separated and weighed. Total body fat was determined by chemical extraction of carcass fat.

Results: Animals inoculated with Ad-36 developed a syndrome of increased adipose tissue and paradoxically low levels of serum cholesterol and triglycerides. This syndrome was not seen in chickens inoculated with CELO virus. Sections of the brain and hypothalamus of Ad-36 inoculated animals did not show any overt histopathological changes. Ad-36 DNA could be detected in adipose tissue, but not skeletal muscles of randomly selected animals for as long as 16 weeks after Ad-36 inoculation.

Conclusions: Data from these animal models suggest that the role of viral disease in the etiology of human obesity must be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenovirus Infections, Human / complications*
  • Adenoviruses, Human* / genetics
  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Animals
  • Aviadenovirus / genetics
  • Body Composition
  • Brain / pathology
  • Chickens
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / virology*
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • DNA, Viral
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol