Obesity, metabolic syndrome are risk factors for severe influenza, says research

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three co-occurring conditions that could lead to the risk of heart disease




Researchers recently found that metabolic syndrome increases the risk for severe disease from a viral infection.

The findings are based on a review of associated literature by researchers from St Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. It has been published in The American Society for Microbiology.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three co-occurring conditions that could lead to the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). These conditions include excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, excess blood sugar, abnormalities of lipids (including excess triglycerides and cholesterol), insulin resistance and a proinflammatory state.

Studies have also shown how obesity is linked with increased severity of influenza A, higher viral titers in exhaled breath and prolonged transmission of the virus, as per the report. Despite the fact that influenza vaccines generate robust antibody titers in obese subjects, obesity doubles the likelihood of developing influenza.

Besides the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently recognised obesity as a risk factor for severe illness caused by SARS-CoV-2. “This is not surprising because excess body weight and fat deposition apply pressure to the diaphragm, which further increases the difficulty of breathing during a viral infection,” the researchers were quoted as saying by the official website of American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

Not just excess weight, the literature review looked at a study on diabetes patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The study found these patients to be at a significantly higher risk for severe pneumonia compared to non-diabetic COVID-19 patients. CT scans revealed a greater severity of lung abnormalities in these patients.

These data imply that SARS-CoV-2 causes severe disease in obese patients and in those with T2DM by inducing bilateral pneumonia and a cytokine storm that damages the lung epithelial-endothelial barrier.

“Future research should seek to [determine] how metabolic abnormalities increase viral pathogenesis, as this information will play an essential role in global preparedness against emerging seasonal and pandemic virus strains,” the investigators were quote as saying by ASM.

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