What if all the while we’ve been blaming soda and junk food and inactivity for obesity, our guts were trying to tell us something else entirely? That’s because bacterium isolated in the intestines of a 385-pound man in China may hold the key to controlling obesity, according to a report published Dec. 13 by the International Society for Microbial Ecology in the peer-reviewed “ISME Journal.” And at a Dec. 18 press conference in Shanghai, the research team, led by Zhao Liping, professor of microbiology and associate dean at the School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, expanded on why their ISME Journal article is the most convincing evidence to date that gut microbes play a significant role in weight gain, reported China Daily. Zhao credits microbiologist Jeffrey Gordon and his colleagues from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis for first showing a link between obesity and microscopic organisms living in the mice intestines in 2004. The Chinese scientists isolated a toxin-producing microbe called “enterobacter cloacae,” which accounted for 35 percent all the microorganisms in the obese man’s digestive tract. Next, Zhao’s team formulated a diet to kill off that specific microbe, and was successful in taking levels down to where they could no longer be detected in the man. In 23 weeks, the man lost 113 pounds and saw his high blood pressure, Type-2 diabetes and fatty liver all disappeared. Since there are 10 trillion to 100 trillion bacteria in the typical individual’s digestive tract, the trick now will be identifying which ones make us fat or thin. “The endotoxin released by the bacterium can activate a gene that helps generate fat. And it also deactivates a gene that consumes fat,” Zhao told the press conference. China and the United States share obesity as a public health problem. China has 120 million obese people, according to the country health ministry. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 78 million are obese, including 12.5 million children and adolescents. Americans spend more than $60 billion annually on dieting and weight loss products.