A team of Chinese doctors has, in a world first, found that high blood pressure may be caused by a common virus.
According to research published last month in the top-tier medical journal Circulation, doctors from Beijing Chaoyang Hospital's Cardiology Centre found a link between human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections and hypertension.
HCMV is a common virus that infects most people at some time during their lives but rarely causes obvious illness when inhibited by the immune system.
The discovery may lead to new ways of preventing and fighting hypertension, which affects about one billion people across the globe, including 230 million mainlanders.
Among those afflicted, 95 per cent have 'essential' hypertension, which has no identifiable cause. Doctors have generally considered this was a problem induced by genes or unhealthy lifestyles. The remaining patients have symptomatic hypertension, meaning it is caused by other diseases, such as those involving the kidneys or blood vessels.
Dr Cai Jun, one of the paper's authors , said that if it was confirmed that the virus caused hypertension, a vaccine to control or prevent it could possibly be developed.
Dr Ricky Man, a professor of pharmacology and pharmacy at the University of Hong Kong, said further work was needed to substantiate 'this exciting initial observation'.