Common Virus May Cause High Blood Pressure

May 15, 2009

(ChattahBox)—An intriguing new study may change the way doctors treat patients in the future with risk factors for heart disease and high blood pressure. A multi-disciplined team of researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, discovered a link between a common virus, called cytomegalovirus or CMV and high blood pressure, as well as hardening of the arteries.

The results of the study were so convincing, doctors may soon start testing patients for the CMV virus and treating them with an antiviral agent or a CMV vaccine.

The CMV virus is so common it affects between 60 and 99 percent of adults worldwide and between 50 and 80 percent of adults in the United States. CMV belongs to the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily of the Herpes virus, which also includes the Roseolovirus.

It’s usually asymptomatic, but remains latent in our bodies, emerging later when our immune systems become compromised. Most adults will have developed an immunity to the virus.

Previous studies have linked the CMV virus to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, but doctors were unable to find the reason why, until now.

Researchers tested four groups of mice, feeding one group a standard diet and the second group a high-cholesterol diet. The researchers infected two groups with the CMV virus and proceeded to put them through blood pressure readings and cell culture tests.

The researchers first discovered that both groups infected with the CMV virus developed high blood pressure. And more significantly, the group with a high cholesterol diet developed hardening of the arteries. The researchers believe the results suggest that the CMV infection and the high-cholesterol diet may work together to cause atherosclerosis.”

After conducting tests on the mice cells, the researchers were able to prove why the CMV virus causes high blood pressure. First, the researchers found that the virus stimulated production of three different inflammatory cytokines, causing inflammation to vascular cells and other tissues.

Secondly, the researchers found that the CMV virus increased the expression of the renin enzyme, and protein angiotensin 11, which both are known to cause high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is known as the silent killer, because the condition often presents with no symptoms, which left untreated can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure.

The promising results of this study could lead to a cost effective therapy to treat or prevent high blood pressure, using antiviral medications and a vaccine to prevent CMV at a young age.

The study is available in the May 15, 2009 issue of PLoS Pathogens.

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4 Responses to “Common Virus May Cause High Blood Pressure”

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  4. rocky on June 5th, 2009 12:05 am

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