ULM, Germany (dpa) – German doctors say they have diagnosed an extremely obese child who constantly ate and weighed more than 40 kilogrammes by age three as having a pre-viously unknown disease.
The doctors traced the cause of the boy’s persistent hunger to a mutation in the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin.
The team, headed by Martin Wabitsch, treated they boy at Ulm University Medical Centre in Germany.
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, they say the boy normalised his eating behaviour and lost weight following treatment with a synthetic analogue of the hormone.
While experts from the German Society of Internal Medicine (DGIM) praised the qua-lity of the doctors’ work and said the findings were “highly interesting” to the medi-cal community, there is controversy about whether the mutation constitutes a “new disease”.
The mutation cited by the Ulm doctors is “an absolute rarity” from a clinical standpoint, DGIM executive board member Petra-Maria Schumm-Draeger told dpa.
It’s highly unlikely that other obese persons could be helped in the same way, she said, adding that the function of leptin has been known for 20 years.