Research shows a new cause of heart infections

Credit: Unsplash+

Scientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have unveiled groundbreaking insights into viral infections impacting the heart, shifting the traditional focus from inflammation-driven myocarditis to the virus’s direct effects.

This discovery, detailed in Circulation Research, opens new avenues for diagnosing and treating heart conditions caused by viruses, potentially altering the course of medical care for many.

Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart often triggered by viral infections, has been closely linked to sudden cardiac deaths, especially in younger adults.

However, Associate Professor James Smyth and his team have identified a critical early stage of infection where the virus itself, not the subsequent immune response, jeopardizes heart function.

This stage precedes inflammation, setting the stage for heart rhythm irregularities, known as arrhythmias, that can lead to sudden cardiac issues.

The team’s research, primarily focusing on adenovirus—a common cause of myocarditis—utilized mouse models to closely mimic the infection process in humans.

They discovered that the virus disrupts the heart’s communication systems early in the infection, affecting gap junctions and ion channels.

Gap junctions facilitate cell-to-cell communication within the heart, while ion channels manage the flow of ions across cell membranes, crucial for maintaining the heart’s electrical activity and rhythm.

This disruption leads to a predisposition for arrhythmias before any physical symptoms or signs of inflammation are detectable.

Such findings underscore the potential for acute viral infections to cause sudden cardiac problems, emphasizing the need for new diagnostic and treatment strategies that target these early molecular changes.

The research signifies a pivotal shift in understanding heart infections, suggesting that individuals with active infections might face a hidden risk of sudden cardiac events despite appearing normal under standard diagnostic tests like MRI and echocardiography.

The team is now exploring blood-based biomarkers that could identify individuals at greater risk for these dangerous arrhythmias, aiming for early detection through simple blood tests in clinical settings.

This innovative approach to studying heart infections not only sheds light on the underlying mechanisms of viral impacts on heart health but also holds the promise of more effective, targeted interventions to protect those at risk of serious cardiac outcomes.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that vitamin K helps cut heart disease risk by a third, and a year of exercise reversed worrisome heart failure.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about supplements that could help prevent heart disease, stroke, and results showing this food ingredient may strongly increase heart disease death risk.

The research findings can be found in Circulation Research.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.