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Virus may cause hypertension

A COMMON virus may be a major cause of high blood pressure, American researchers said on Thursday in a finding that may bring new approaches to treating a condition that affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

Based on a series of studies in mice, they said cytomegalovirus or CMV - a herpes virus that affects some 60 to 99 percent of adults globally - appears to increase inflammation in blood vessels, causing high blood pressure.

Combined with a fatty diet, CMV may also cause hardening of the arteries, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease, they said.

"I think it could be very important," said Dr Clyde Crumpacker of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who worked on the study in the Public Library of Science Journal PLoS Pathogens.

"It may suggest a whole new way of looking at high blood pressure and vascular disease," Crumpacker said.

He said the research offers the first direct proof the virus causes persistent infection in blood vessels. Doctors typically use generic drugs such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors to control blood pressure, a condition found in one in three adults in the United States.

Crumpacker said the study suggests vaccines and antiviral drugs may offer a new treatment approach.

Several companies are now working on a vaccine.


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