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CMV and heart disease.

CMV and heart disease

Though cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause flu-like symptoms in infected children and adults, this herpesvirus has prompted concern primarily through its ability to cause birth defects in a developing fetus (SN: 11/19/89, p.327). But a new report suggests another reason to worry about this often asymptomatic infection: "circumstantial" but "increasing" evidence that it can trigger atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death from heart attacks and stroke.

Spurred by evidence that herpesviruses could cause atherosclerosis in birds, Joseph L. Melnick and his colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston looked for signs of latent herpes infection in people with coronary artery disease. The team's first report, published in 1983, suggested a possible link. Now, in April 25 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, they review their follow-ups and other studies involving human tissues or blood, including six published in the past three years. All show a far higher rate of herpes DNA and other signs of herpesvirus infection -- especially CMV -- in people with advanced atherosclerosis than in people with little or no arterial disease. Because the researchers did not find whole viruses in the atherosclerotic tissue, they suggest "CMV may be an initiating factor" that later vanishes from sites of advanced disease.

Ultimately, they add, confirming CMV's atherogenicity might spur development of a commercial CMV vaccine.
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Title Annotation:cytomegalovirus
Publication:Science News
Date:May 5, 1990
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