Obesity vaccine requires volunteer's sacrifice

The number of our planet’s inhabitants that suffer from obesity has surpassed the number on the ones who are starving.

These days more than a billion people in the world are considered seriously overweight, while there are 800 million of those who are systematically exposed to denutrition. These numbers were provided at the International Agricultural Association of Economists conference in Australia at the end of August.

There are plenty of scientific explanations for this phenomenon. One of the most controversial ones, while also one of the most intriguing, - obesity might be caused by a virus.

And not only that but it could even be contagious! American specialists only established such tendencies among chickens and mice but they believe they are quite possible for humans as well.

Obesity has remained one of the most widespread chronic diseases throughout human history,” says Professor Yunna Popova, the cathedra director of the RAMN Nutrition Institute, “In fact, its fast spreading greatly resembles an epidemic."

"Studies have shown that there are six viruses which can produce fatness in animals," she went on,  "Meanwhile the findings of our colleagues from Wisconsin University in Madison established that a human virus can cause chickens to become obese. Consequently they assumed that it could also pass on from human to human.”

Scientists’ considerations include the following: almost simultaneously the number of overweight people made a sharp increase in most of the world, and this fact cannot be explained by mere nutritional changes, eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.

Medical experts suspected a while ago that the process might be influenced by the adenoviruses. However, proving this suspicion appeared to be problematic. Scientists began their research by gathering various data about heavy people. Their results were shocking.

Approximately 127 million among the adult population in the U.S. are suffering from being overweight. More than a half of them have received an actual medical diagnose: obesity. This problem is also widespread in the developing countries where obesity exists right next to malnourishment. Every fifth citizen of Europe has health problems associated with extra weight, and the number is twice as high in America .

“Russia doesn’t have any statistics of this kind, so there are only approximate numbers,” Popova explains, “But according to our estimation every third person in Russia has extra few kilos, and every sixth person is suffering from obesity of different degrees. Obviously this disease carries with it a number of other serious illnesses – hypertonic, diabetes, heart disease etc.”

“It is logical to assume that if obesity is viral in nature, then it may very well be contagious,” – Yunna Popova explains, - “This means that a seemingly healthy person who has no overweight tendencies could catch the virus and get really fat within a short span of time."

"In this case none of the popular cures like diet and exercise would prove effective," she said, "How do we fight this threat? American doctors recommend regular hand washing and avoiding close contact with fat people. In my opinion a long as this way of disease transmitting has not yet been proven, such recommendations sound discriminating.”

In short, fat people are still people and most of them have families and friends, and it would be inappropriate to shun socializing with them. Others must help them. But how?

“If the viral infection is the actual cause of obesity, theoretically there is a potential for a vaccine that could bring tremendous benefit to human health,” Popova believes, “But this is hard to confirm."

"We know that the adenoviruses 36 and 37 cause animals to gain much weight," she continued, "Yet we don’t have any similar cause-and-effect data for the humans: experiments of this sort are considered unethical because they require injecting people with a virus and observing whether they grow obese or not. That is why the overall opinion about obesity’s viral nature is disputable. As soon as the scientists find a way to confirm the theory - for example by personally volunteering to try the vaccine, - we will be able to discuss it with much more certainty.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Translated by Natalia Vysotskaya