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Can a Virus Cause High Blood Pressure?

Can a Virus Cause High Blood Pressure?


A virus CAN cause high blood pressure.

A virus can certainly contribute to high blood pressure, a study from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) indicates.

More Info: The study found that a common virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause high blood pressure.  One of the researchers said that the discovery might mean that doctors will change the way they treat high blood pressure, or hypertension.  It may lead to the use of antiviral therapies to lower blood pressure among people who have the virus or vaccines to prevent people from contracting the virus, which generally does not cause problems under normal circumstances. [1]


CMV affects between 50%-80% of adults in the United States by the time they are forty years old. It is a member of the herpes family, and includes the varicella-zoster virus, herpes simplex viruses, and the Epstein-Barr virus.  There are rarely any symptoms, and the virus is there to stay once it’s in the body.  CMV is dormant until the immune system is compromised, then it may present infections and complications. [2]

Cause and Effect

Researchers found that the CMV infection and a diet high in cholesterol work together to cause hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, which leads to high blood pressure.  This may be due to the fact that viruses can affect how human genes work in the body.  CMV is probably enhancing the expression of an enzyme called renin, which directly involve in causing high blood pressure.  CMV also increases the protein angiotensin ll, another contributor to elevated blood pressure.  The big picture is that the virus increases the production of harmful proteins and enzymes in important cells, which contributes to hypertension by causing inflammation and damage to vessel walls.  [3]



[1] Cheng J, Ke Q, Jin Z, Wang H, Kocher O, et al. (2009) Cytomegalovirus Infection Causes an Increase of Arterial Blood Pressure. PLoS Pathog 5(5): e1000427. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000427

[2]Centers for Disease Control
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Congenital CMVR Infection

[3]Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center
Study Indicates High Blood Pressure Could Be Caused by a Common Virus

Resource: US National Library of Medicine

Resource: Centers for Disease Control
Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis

Glossary of Terms


Angiotensin ll: an octapeptide that is a potent vasopressor and a powerful stimulus for production and release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex.
American Heritage Medical Dictionary

Epstein-Barr virus: also known as infectious mononucleosis, is a member of the herpesvirus family and one of the most common human viruses.
Centers for Disease Control

Herpes simplex viruses: either of two herpes diseases caused by a herpesvirus that infects humans and some other animals and produces small, transient blisters on the skin or mucous membranes, one type of virus (herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1)  usually associated with oral herpes but also causing genital herpes and the other (herpes simplex virus type 2, or HSV-2)  usually causing genital herpes.


Renin: an enzyme that increases the amount of angiotensinogen in the blood, which eventually increases blood pressure. It increases the release of aldosterone, a hormone that helps control the body’s salt and water balance.
US National Library of Medicine

Varicella-zoster virus: is a ubiquitous human alphaherpesvirus that causes varicella (chicken pox) and herpes zoster (shingles).
Clinical Microbiology Reviews

Expert Opinion

“The mice with the highest increase in blood pressure were those that were both infected with CMV and were fed a high cholesterol diet and this group had evidence of Atherosclerosis in 30% of mice. This suggests that CMV infection and high cholesterol diet might work together to cause high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.”
Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center
Study Indicates High Blood Pressure Could Be Caused by a Common Virus

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