The more a newborn weighs, the better its chances of being protected from tuberculosis (TB), according to a new study that says that every pound decreases the risk of developing the disease later in life.

University of Michigan (U-M) researchers looked at how much protection additional birth weight adds against developing TB years later.

They found that every 1.1 pound of birth weight decreases the risk of developing TB later by 46 percent among identical twins.

The findings are important because TB infects about a third of the planet’s population, and is second only to HIV in deaths caused by a single infection.

The link between birth weight and developing TB is much stronger for males than females, who are only about 16 percent less likely to develop TB for every 1.1 pound (500 grams) of birth weight, said Eduardo Villamor, study author.

Villamor, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health, said the risk decreased by 87 percent for infant males with each pound.

Low birth weight of babies is a larger problem in developing countries, but it occurs everywhere, he said, according to a U-M release.

Villamor worked with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and began the research while at Harvard.

The study is slated for publication in the February edition of Infectious Disease.

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