Study: Viral reactivation a likely link between stress and heart disease

January 22, 2013 by Emily Caldwell, The Ohio State University

A new study could provide the link that scientists have been looking for to confirm that reactivation of a latent herpes virus is a cause of some heart problems.

Looking at blood samples from 299 , researchers at Ohio State University found that those who had suffered a attack were the most likely to have circulating in their blood compared to patients with less acute symptoms. And having more of one of these proteins in the blood was linked to the presence of antibodies that signal a latent Epstein-Barr (EBV) reactivation.

To date, these relationships have been hard to find because scientists have been unable to detect evidence of a virus in diseased areas of the .

In this study, however, the researchers instead looked for antibodies against a protein that can be produced even when only partial or incomplete reactivation of Epstein-Barr EBV occurs. And when this antibody was detected, it was associated with immune system malfunctions connected to inflammation – a known risk factor for heart disease.

Identifying a solid link between a reactivated virus and heart disease is important because of the prevalence of EBV, a that causes infectious mononucleosis and several different types of tumors. An estimated 95 percent of Americans have been infected with the virus by adulthood, and once a person is infected, the virus remains dormant in the body. It can be reactivated without causing symptoms of illness, but reactivation has potential to create chaos in the immune system.

Stress is a known predictor of reactivation of EBV, meaning virus reactivation could be a mechanism by which stress leads to and eventually cardiovascular diseases.

"In the big picture, this may help clarify the role these viruses play in heart disease," said co-author Ron Glaser, director of Ohio State's Institute for Institute (IBMR) and professor of , immunology and medical genetics. "And it makes sense, because we know that some viral proteins can induce inflammation, affecting the lining of blood vessels, so that inflammation is in the right place to function as a significant risk factor for heart disease."

The research is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

The patients whose blood was sampled for the study were undergoing angioplasty to clear narrow arteries. Researchers tested their blood for the presence of numerous cytokines – proteins that signal the presence of inflammation – as well as for antibody to an EBV encoded viral protein called dUTPase. This protein is produced early in the process of viral reactivation, and may be present even if signs of the virus itself cannot be detected.

Co-author Marshall Williams, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, uses a highly sensitive method to detect these antibodies, and hopes to develop an equally effective technique that could be put to use in clinical laboratories.

Patients who had had acute myocardial infarction – a heart attack – were the most likely to have the highest measures of two cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) in their blood compared to patients whose main symptom was chest pain.

Researchers also identified a strong relationship between circulating concentrations of ICAM-1 and detectable antibodies to EBV dUTPase. In fact, the highest values of ICAM-1 were found in patients who had had a heart attack and were positive for the dUTPase protein. A similar trend was seen with IL-6, but the finding could have been attributed to chance.

"This study provides the essential clinical corroboration of this mechanism showing enhanced levels of proinflammatory proteins in the blood of patients with acute coronary events and detectable levels of the EBV-related protein," said Philip Binkley, professor of cardiovascular medicine and epidemiology at Ohio State and a lead author of the study.

Explore further: Discovery could lead to faster diagnosis for some chronic fatigue syndrome cases

Related Stories

Discovery could lead to faster diagnosis for some chronic fatigue syndrome cases

November 14, 2012
For the first time, researchers have landed on a potential diagnostic method to identify at least a subset of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a complex disorder with no known definitive cause or cure.

Is the detection of early markers of Epstein Barr virus of diagnostic value?

November 16, 2012
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the cause of infectious mononucleosis and a risk for serious disease in liver transplant recipients. Molecular tests that can identify early protein markers produced by EBV may have value for diagnosing ...

Loneliness, like chronic stress, taxes the immune system

January 19, 2013
New research links loneliness to a number of dysfunctional immune responses, suggesting that being lonely has the potential to harm overall health.

Researchers find Epstein Barr-like virus infects and may cause cancer in dogs

March 12, 2012
More than 90 percent of humans have antibodies to the Epstein Barr virus. Best known for causing mononucleosis, or "the kissing disease," the virus has also been implicated in more serious conditions, including Hodgkin's, ...

NIH scientists outline steps toward Epstein-Barr virus vaccine

November 2, 2011
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infects nine out of ten people worldwide at some point during their lifetimes. Infections in early childhood often cause no disease symptoms, but people infected during adolescence or young adulthood ...

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.