Researchers from Stanford University have found that obese people are at higher risks of COVID-19 complications. This is largely because of the discovery that the COVID-19 virus is capable of hiding in fat cells and also in immune cells of fat tissue. Using fat tissue obtained from bariatric surgeries, the scientists wanted to confirm if coronavirus could infect fat tissue, and they were surprised to find that it could.
The researchers compared their results with fat tissue collected from deceased COVID-19 patients. They found coronavirus evidence in the fat surrounding internal organs, meaning that the virus is capable of hiding itself in fat deposits to avoid detection, making its infection more fatal. HIV and flu viruses are also known to hide in fat tissue to escape the policing activities of the immune system.
Given that the coronavirus virus can infect and hideaway in fat tissue, researchers now understood why overweight and obese COVID-19 patients fare worse from the disease. Obese coronavirus patients are found to develop severe COVID-19 complications, stay longer on hospital admission, and die more from the disease than normal-weight individuals.
Analysts said this could be the case because obese people tend to suffer more blood clots than low-fat people; and when they get infected with coronavirus, they experience higher blood clot incidents which lead to death than in other categories of patients. Scientists also found that the body’s immunity drops when fat cells overcome the spleen, thymus, and bone marrow where immune cells are grown, causing inflammation in the individual.
“This could well be contributing to severe disease,” senior author Dr. Catherine Blish, a translational immunologist and professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said. “We’re seeing the same inflammatory cytokines that I see in the blood of the really sick patients being produced in response to the infection of those [fat] tissues.”
Although this recent study has not been peer-reviewed and needs more research to validate its facts, it spells doom for obese people with COVID-19 infection if subsequent studies agree with the initial findings. This means that the fat tissue of very fat people can be a reservoir for viral infections such as COVID-19 and that obese people face grave prospects of severe complications when infected by the disease.