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Obesity nearly doubles duration of influenza A virus shedding in adults

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August 8, 2018

Anthony Fauci
Anthony S. Fauci

Researchers have determined a link between obesity and the duration of influenza A shedding time in adults, finding it almost doubles the length of virus shedding.

“This is an interesting finding,” Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Infectious Disease News. “We have known for some time that people who are obese have a greater incidence of influenza when they get infected. The elderly, the young, the pregnant, they are people with compromised immune systems and they have a greater risk. People with obesity are in the grouping.”

Researchers monitored 1,783 people from 320 households in Managua, Nicaragua, over three influenza seasons between 2015 and 2017. Of those monitored, 2% of individuals up to age 4 years, 9% of those aged 5 to 17 years and 42% of those aged 18 to 92 years were classified as obese.

Obese adults exhibiting two or more influenza A virus symptoms shed the virus 42% longer than nonobese adults, 5.23 days compared with 3.68 days. Those exhibiting one or no symptoms shed the virus 104% longer, 3.21 days vs. 1.57 days.

“We already knew that [obese people] had complicated courses with influenza, but we learned that they’re actually shedding the virus for longer times,” Fauci said. “It wasn’t surprising but is very interesting.”

Researchers also found that obesity was not a risk factor for increased viral shedding duration in children aged 5 to 17 years or for patients with influenza B.

They noted that the amount and duration of viral shedding affects how easily influenza viruses are transmitted to others and that obesity may increase the shedding duration through chronic inflammation.

“We’ve got to get the obesity rates down,” Fauci said. “It’s yet again another negative component of obesity — increased seriousness and now the actual shedding.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures. Fauci reports no relevant financial disclosures.