PEOPLE can catch a bug which makes them obese, claim scientists.
The virus is picked up from a sneeze, a cough or dirty hands like a cold.
The new research supports earlier theories from studies on weight gain.
Evidence in tests on mice and chickens shows the bug could cause tubbies to pile on the pounds.
In one test a THIRD of obese people had the rare and highly contagious virus compared to just 11 PER CENT of thinner people.
US Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar said the virus, known as AD-36, goes to the lungs then whisks around the body.
It forces fat cells to multiply and also causes sore throats.
He said: “When this virus goes to fat tissue it replicates ... which may explain why people get fat when infected.”
Weight gain can last three months until the body has built up resistance to the bug.
But Prof Dhurandhar of Louisiana, US, tells BBC2’s Horizon tonight: “People could be fat for reasons other than viral infections, so it’s pointless for fat people to try to avoid infection.”The programme also reveals research claiming dieters always feel hungry because humans have a “natural body weight” and they will always suffer hunger pangs