Obesity could be contagious, scientists say

Researchers believe gut bacteria, which influences two per cent of a person's body weight, could lie dormant and survive outside the body, before transferring to other people

Siobhan Fenton
Thursday 05 May 2016 18:13 BST
(Rex Features)

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Obesity could be contagious as gut bacteria from overweight people spreads to slimmer people, research has found.

Scientists believe gut bacteria can lie dormant in spores for long periods of time, through a form of bacterial hibernation. This means that the bacteria can survive outside the body and potentially transfer between people by being ingested. It is estimated that around two per cent of a person’s body weight is linked to bacteria as it can disrupt a person’s gut microbiome.

In addition to obesity, the research could aid understanding of a variety of conditions including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and allergies.

The research has been conducted by scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and published in Nature journal.

Dr Sam Forster, from the Sanger Institute and the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Australia, said: “The extensive database of genomes we have generated from these bacteria is also essential for studying which bacteria are present or absent in people with gastrointestinal conditions. Now we can start to design mixtures of therapeutics candidates for use in these diseases.”

The UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, with one in four adults being obese. The levels are three times levels in the 1980s, when 6 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women were obese.

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