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Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Date:5/15/2009

Mouse study shows CMV raises risk of hypertension, hardening of arteries

FRIDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- A hidden viral infection that most adults harbor could be a cause of high blood pressure, animal studies indicate.

Mice infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV) were more likely to develop not only high blood pressure but also the hardening of the arteries called atherosclerosis, according to a report in the May 15 issue of PLoS Pathogens by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

"This could be of immense importance," said lead researcher Dr. Clyde Crumpacker, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an investigator in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess. "The implication for the human population is that antiviral therapy or a vaccine could be an intervention for high blood pressure."

CMV infection is widespread, Crumpacker noted. Studies indicate that between 60 percent and 99 percent of adults worldwide are infected, according to the study. But aside from pregnancy, where CMV infection is associated with serious birth defects, it causes no problems for most adults "until they get something that compromises the immune system," he noted.

"Vascular [blood vessel] injury has been suspected for quite a while," Crumpacker said. "What we have added, in collaboration with cardiologists, is evidence that in mice, CMV can cause an increase in blood pressure."

Blood vessel problems related to CMV infection were first noted in heart transplant recipients, Crumpacker said. Those who were CMV-positive were more likely to have blockage of the heart arteries.

The new study brought together specialists from several fields, including cardiology, virology and pathology to look at the phenomenon in mice. The study included four groups of mice, two fed a standard diet, and two fed a high-cholesterol diet. After four weeks, mice in one stand
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