A recent study suggests that obese adults are more vulnerable to contracting the swine flu virus, or the influenza A/H1N1pdm. A similar link was also investigated for the seasonal flu.
The recent findings can be potentially useful in understanding the mechanism through which influenza and other contagious diseases such as the current coronavirus (COVID-19) can affect varying sects of the populace. According to co-author, Hannah Maier from the University of Michigan, School of Public Health, the study is vital as obesity is prevalent all across the world and is spreading at a rapid pace. According to data published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016, about 13% of the world’s adult population were obese that year. In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, obesity has increased worldwide, the authors write. Furthermore, a swine flu pandemic is likely in the future, and if obesity is a risk factor for susceptibility to these diseases, then it can result in more infections that estimated.
The research team analysed data of over 1500 people from over 300 households who had registered in the Nicaraguan Household Transmission Study which is a continuing community study which tracks the health of the people of Managua, Nicaragua. The participants were evaluated for 10-15 days and were required to give swab and blood tests to determine the existence of an infection. The team observed that obese adults were at a two-fold risk of H1N1 than participants who were not obese. However, the association was not observed in H3N2 seasonal influenza strains. The associating factor between obesity and higher risk of developing serious infections is unknown, however age is an important factor in development of chronic inflammation and diseases. There is extensive research demonstrating that obesity escalates proinflammatory cytokine levels and decreases anti-inflammatory levels. Furthermore, obesity can hamper healing of wounds and can impair breathing.