Tag Archives: virus

Viral Infection and the Thyroid in the Age of Covid-19

By Gary M. Pepper, M.D.
(This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or treatment)

During the Covid-19 pandemic my medical practice has been operating as normally as possible. The other day a young woman arrived wearing a surgical mask with a stack of medical records in hand, for a new patient appointment. Her difficulties began 6 weeks prior with intense tenderness in the right side of her neck just above the clavicle (collarbone) which varied in intensity over the course of about 10 days. Evaluation by her primary care physician uncovered newly elevated thyroid hormone levels. During our discussion she recalled a respiratory tract infection starting a week before the neck pain developed.  Still complaining of lung congestion she denied fever or shortness of breath.  Sitting comfortably, the thyroid was no longer tender but was slightly enlarged and unusually firm.  Reading on it will become clear why my preliminary diagnosis is sub-acute thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid following a viral respiratory tract infection, possibly Covid-19. Continue reading

Obesity Caused by a Virus?

Researchers already know that ten different viruses can cause obesity in animals. Recent information presented at a conference in Boston by Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar and colleagues, pin-points adenovirus-36 as a potential cause of obesity in humans. In the latest studies these researchers were able to convert human stem cells into fat cells by infecting them with the adenovirus. By converting human stem cells into fat (adipose) cells adenovirus-36 can cause an increase in the amount of fat tissue in the body. The adenovirus is a common infection in infants and children causing flu like symptoms of sore throat, runny nose, cough, diarrhea and fever. Pink-eye (conjunctivitis) can also be caused by adenovirus. Once a cell is converted to a fat cell by the virus it may remain in that form for its entire existence.

Studies in which humans have been infected with adenovirus-36 have not been conducted although it was found that 30% of people with evidence of prior infection with adenovirus-36 were obese.

Studies implicating viral infection as a contributor to obesity raise the question if a vaccine against the culprit viruses could be developed in the future. If successful vaccination might then be a way to help people protect themselves against developing obesity. The researchers point out that although viruses might increase fat cells in the body, a lifestyle of over consumption of calories or sedentary lifestyle is also needed to complete the conversion to obesity.