European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 173, Issue 1, pp 25–32 | Cite as

Obesity and infection: two sides of one coin

  • Giulia Genoni
  • Flavia Prodam
  • Agostina Marolda
  • Enza Giglione
  • Irene Demarchi
  • Simonetta Bellone
  • Gianni Bona


The prevalence of obesity has exponentially risen worldwide. The etiology of obesity is multifactorial, and genetic inheritance and behavioral/environmental causes are considered the main etiological factors. Moreover, evidence that specific infections might promote the development of obesity has steadily accumulated. Only a few works investigate the impact of obesity on the immune response to infections and the risk of infections in the obese population. The aim of this paper was to review the available data regarding the various aspects of the association between obesity and infections and to highlight the possibility that infectious agents may have an etiological role in obesity, an idea known as “infectobesity”. Several microbes have been considered as possible promoter of obesity, but most of the data concern adenovirus-36 that exerts an adipogenic action mainly via a direct effect on adipose tissue leading to weight gain, at least in animal models.

Obesity affects the immune response leading to an increased susceptibility to infections. Obese adults and children show an increased incidence of both nosocomial and community-acquired infections. Furthermore, obesity may alter the pharmacokinetics of antimicrobial drugs and impact on vaccine response. However, the various aspects of the association of obesity infections remain poorly studied, and a call to research is necessary to better investigate the problem.

In conclusion, obesity impacts millions globally, and greater understanding of its etiology and its effects on immunity, infections, and prevention and management strategies is a key public health concern.


Obesity Infections Children Adults Infectobesity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giulia Genoni
    • 1
  • Flavia Prodam
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Agostina Marolda
    • 1
  • Enza Giglione
    • 1
  • Irene Demarchi
    • 1
  • Simonetta Bellone
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gianni Bona
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.SCDU of Pediatrics, Department of Health SciencesUniversità del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”NovaraItaly
  2. 2.Endocrinology, Department of Translational MedicineUniversità del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”NovaraItaly
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity Study (ICOS)Università del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”NovaraItaly

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