In my world, there is a virus that causes acquired degreasing body syndrome (also known as ADBS) (sorry, the original French name of this disease is syndrome de dégraissage corporel acquis) (the original language of my story is my native French).

The laconic of this infectious disease is a progressive contagious adipocyte degeneration. It is transmitted by all body fluids (vaginal secretions, sperm, mother-to-child, milk, blood, saliva, vomit, urine, and tears). This disease does not directly kill, however, because people who have it become gaunt, they have an EXTREMELY high risk of the following diseases: both female infertility caused by low oestrogen (amenorrhea) and male infertility caused by a lack of nutriments to make viable spermatozoa, osteoporosis, both myocardial infarction and stroke caused by anaemia, both hypotension (low blood pressure) and cardiac arrythmia (irregular heart beat), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (all those causes of death are more common in underweight people).

The virus that causes this pandemic is a retrovirus from the Betaretrovirus genus (to be exact, its direct ancestor is the mouse mammary tumor virus).

So, I wonder if this disease could possibly exist.


2 Answers 2


Acquired lipodystrophy is real.

Lipodystrophy Syndromes: Presentation and Treatment

Linked book with much reading and images. In these diseases there is an attack on adipocytes and then various derangements of their function. The gaunt version you describe can happen with HIV; it is not clear if it is an effect of the infection or modern treatments. It can certainly happen as an aftereffect of an infection and so probably an autoimmune disease (like juvenile diabetes) and it can happen in the context of a serious autoimmune disease like lupus.

For whatever reason diabetes accompanies lipodystrophy and poorly controlled diabetes by itself can cause all the of bad things you want for your fictional disease, as can HIV and autoimmune disease.

Lipodystrophy can also cause a person to appear preternaturally ripped because there is no subcutaneous fat to conceal the muscles and there is nothing wrong with the muscles. When I contract this disease in your story that is the version I am going to get, and I am going to win body building competitions but never work out. My gold lamé Speedo helps.

  • $\begingroup$ Gold lamé Speedo always helps. $\endgroup$
    – micha
    Jan 4, 2023 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ "Gold lamé Speedo helps" - that's going on a t-shirt! $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2023 at 15:29

@Willk has come up with what's probably the best answer you're going to get. But if you're willing to go out on a limb (and you aren't too attached to a retrovirus), I thought we could have some fun with this.

Your virus is a mutated form of Covid

SARS-CoV-2 is not a retrovirus. It's actually a coronavirus (surprise, surprise), but it shares similarities with a retrovirus in that they both contain positive-sense, single-stranded RNA. In some ways, coronaviruses may be quicker-acting than retroviruses because they contain RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, meaning they can copy RNA into RNA, versus retroviruses which have reverse transcriptase, meaning they must invade the host cell's genome, overtake its machinery, and convert their RNA into DNA.

It might be a stretch to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 could cause progressive adipocyte degeneration, but research shows that it often infect adipose cells, explaining why people with obesity are primary targets (more fat cells to infect) and why weight loss in Covid is so common (adipocyte degeneration).

Stanford Medicine study: SARS-CoV-2 infects fat tissue

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can directly infect adipose tissue (which most of us refer to as just plain “fat”). That, in turn, cooks up a cycle of viral replication within resident fat cells, or adipocytes, and causes pronounced inflammation in immune cells that hang out in fat tissue.

Also see this study, which explains the mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 infects adipocytes.

What's more, Covid has all the badness you could ask for. Contagion? Covid spreads through many mechanisms, and the virus has been found in feces, saliva, semen, and tears. Side effects? People who've had Covid are at risk for a whole slew of disease, including many of the disease you name. I'm including some headlines/links below, but really, the list is endless.

SARS-CoV2 in Different Body Fluids, Risks of Transmission, and Preventing COVID-19

Recent studies indicate viral particles can be isolated from many body fluids including feces, saliva, semen, and tears, suggesting transmission could be possibly occurring through some of these routes as well.

Serious Illness From Covid Linked To Infertility Risks

“There is evidence to suggest that infection with SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to impact both male fertility, female fertility, and certainly the health of a pregnancy of someone infected"

IU researchers study long-term effects of COVID-19 on bone growth

Researchers in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine discovered that mouse models infected with the novel coronavirus lost approximately 25% of their bone mass within two weeks of contagion.

Cardiac Manifestations Of Coronavirus

COVID-19 has been found to interact with and affect the cardiovascular system leading to myocardial damage and cardiac and endothelial dysfunction.

Acute Ischemic Stroke and COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may increase the risk of acute ischemic stroke similar to the increased risk of 3.2-fold to 7.8-fold seen within the first 3 days after other respiratory tract infections.

I stopped after infertility, osteoporosis, cardiac complications, and stroke, but the list continues. Google "Covid-19" in conjunction with any disease on your list to read about potential complications.

The great part about this? Because Sars-CoV-2 is still so new, there is much that is yet unknown, so you can reasonably suggest any side effects or methods of contagion. Enter SARS-CoV-3.


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