Coronavirus Chronicles — Fat Cells and Long COVID

The revelation that COVID hides in fat cells, provoking the release of inflammatory cytokines and other kinds of trouble, is causing a bit of a stir. Well-known journalist Glenn Greenwald was chastised as being irresponsible for tweeting the news, although he did mention that the study was not yet peer-reviewed. The important thing is,

What’s new from this new study is obesity’s role in long COVID due to storage in fat cells.

He is talking about a multi-author study, with most of them being from Stanford University School of Medicine. Many additional experts are acknowledged for their assistance in such areas as logistic support, data analysis, immunological assays, and other very niche fields.

A sinister association

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (which affects children) is a lot like “long COVID,” or post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) as it is now officially known. Childhood Obesity News has mentioned before a theory associated with both — namely, that the virus can lurk undetected in body cells so it seems to be gone, but it’s not.

Now, back to the new paper under discussion which says,

[I]f adipose cells constitute a reservoir for viral infection, obesity may contribute not only to severe acute disease, but also to long-COVID syndrome.

One of our posts said,

Unfortunately, obesity appears to guarantee a pretty much perpetual state of inflammation. Adipose tissue, aka fat, causes low-grade inflammation that is a constant background in the bodies of obese people.

This is of course the exact kind of environment the virus likes to move in and take advantage of, and capitalize on.

Back to the current, 18-author paper:

In this report, we demonstrate that human adipose tissue from multiple depots is permissive to SARS-CoV-2 infection and that infection elicits an inflammatory response, including the secretion of known inflammatory mediators of severe COVID-19.

Adipose tissue, or fat, has different kinds of cells. Here are some important words:

Importantly, we demonstrated infection and inflammation in adipose tissue adjacent to critical organs such as the heart and intestine, thus pointing to the potential for adipose tissue potentiation of organ damage in severe COVID-19. Collectively, our data implies that infection in adipose tissue may partially explain the link between obesity and severe COVID-19.

It is beginning to look as if both obesity and the virus will continue to be inescapable aspects of life. Neither one of them will go away unless the other does too. It is almost like the current dilemma is payback for the decades of refusal to face up to the public health crisis of obesity and take it seriously.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: Glenn Greenwald on Twitter
Source: “SARS-CoV-2 infects human adipose tissue and elicits an inflammatory response consistent with severe COVID-19,'”, 10/25/21
Images by Photography Montreal/Public Domain and g4ll4is/CC BY-ND 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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