There is an epidemic of obesity starting about 1980 in both developed and undeveloped countries definitely associated with multiple etiologies. About 670 million people worldwide are obese. The incidence of obesity has increased in all age groups, including children. Obesity causes numerous diseases and the interaction between genetic, metabolic, social, cultural and environmental factors are possible cofactors for the development of obesity. Evidence emerging over the last 20 years supports the hypothesis that viral infections may be associated with obesity in animals and humans. The most widely studied infectious agent possibly linked to obesity is adenovirus 36 (Adv36). Adv36 causes obesity in animals. In humans, Adv36 associates with obesity both in adults and children and the prevalence of Adv36 increases in relation to the body mass index. In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that the viral E4orf1 protein (early region 4 open reading frame 1, Adv) mediates the Adv36 effect including its adipogenic potential. The Adv36 infection should therefore be considered as a possible risk factor for obesity and could be a potential new therapeutic target in addition to an original way to understand the worldwide rise of the epidemic of obesity. Here, the data indicating a possible link between viral infection and obesity with a particular emphasis to the Adv36 will be reviewed.
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