Virome-wide serological profiling reveals association of herpesviruses with obesity

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Author Name


Taushif Khan

Amira Saeed

Arun Rawat

Naser Elkum

Rusung Tan

Nico Marr

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The relationship between viral infection and obesity has been known for several decades but epidemiological data related to obesity is limited to only a few viral pathogens. To identify associations between viral infections and obesity, a high-throughput virome-wide serological profiling tool, VirScan, was used to measure antibody responses to a wide range of viruses. Serum specimens from 457 Qatari adults (lean=184;obese=273) and 231 Qatari children (lean=111;obese=120) were assessed by VirScan. Pediatric specimens were simultaneously tested by conventional serology for several herpesviruses to validate VirScan results. Viral association with obesity was determined by calculation of odds ratio (OR) and p -values from Fisher test, and by multivariate regression analysis to adjust for age and gender, with Bonferroni correction for multiple testing. Comprehensive serological profiling of Qatari adult population with VirScan revealed positive and negative associations ( p <0.05) of antibody responses to members of Herpesviridae and Picornaviridae families, respectively, with obesity. After adjusting p -values for multiple comparisons, only herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and Rhinovirus A were positively (OR=3.3; 95%CI 2.15-4.99; p =2.787E-08) and negatively (OR=0.4; 95%CI 0.26-0.65; p =1.175E-03) associated with obesity. At the peptide level, higher prevalence of antibodies against several peptide epitopes of HSV-1/2 was positively (OR=2.35-3.82; p ≤3.981E-05) associated with obesity. No such associations were seen at the species or peptide levels in the pediatric population. By multivariate regression analysis, HSV-1 was independently associated with obesity irrespective of age and gender. These findings are in agreement with limited data on the adipogenic properties of HSV-1 observed in vitro. Importance The state of Qatar has one of the highest rates of obesity and associated morbidities in the world. Although obesity is predominantly caused by the intake of high calorie diet and reduced physical activities, other factors including infections with certain viruses have been reported. Among these viruses, human adenoviruses were widely studied but epidemiological data for other viruses in relation to human obesity are limited. Here, we studied the association of obesity in Qatari adults and children with a wide range of viral pathogens using VirScan, a virome-wide serological profiling tool. Our results indicate significant association HSV-1 with obesity in the adult population only. Furthermore, we have identified a set of HSV peptides as candidate obesogenic factors for future studies.

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Herpes Simplex Virus
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