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Common Viral Infection Increases Blood Pressure

Last Updated: May 15, 2009.

Infection with cytomegalovirus, found in more than 60 percent of adults, increases blood pressure, possibly through the renin-angiotensin system, according to a study published online May 15 in PLoS Pathogens.

FRIDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV), found in more than 60 percent of adults, increases blood pressure, possibly through the renin-angiotensin system, according to a study published online May 15 in PLoS Pathogens.

Building on previous studies showing a link between CMV infection and cardiovascular disease, Jilin Cheng, M.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined how CMV infection affected blood pressure and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques using a mouse model and cell culture analyses.

The researchers found that CMV infection caused a significant increase in arterial blood pressure but did not cause aortic atherosclerosis. However, with a high-cholesterol diet, CMV could further increase blood pressure and cause aortic atherosclerotic plaque formation. CMV induced the expression of renin and angiotensin II in blood and vessel cells during persistent infection, which the authors note is known to increase blood pressure.

"Expression of viral genes and viral persistent infection of blood vessel endothelial cells resulting in an increased expression of inflammatory cytokines, including renin and angiotensin II, may underpin the molecular mechanism by which CMV infection induced an increase of blood pressure," Cheng and colleagues conclude.

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