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Keywords:

  • atherosclerosis;
  • blood pressure;
  • cytomegalovirus;
  • flow-mediated dilation;
  • risk factors

Summary

Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in immunocompromised organ transplant patients. It has been linked with the pathogenesis of elevated arterial blood pressure. However, controversy exists as to whether CMV infection is associated with endothelial function, and little is known about its role as a potential risk factor for early atherosclerosis development at a young age. We aimed to discover if CMV antibody titres are associated with early vascular changes (carotid intima-media thickness, carotid artery distensibility and brachial artery flow-mediated dilation), blood pressure elevation or other traditional cardiovascular risk factors. CMV antibody titres were measured in 1074 women and 857 men (aged 24–39 years) taking part in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study. CMV antibody titres were significantly higher in women compared to men. In men, high CMV antibody titres were associated directly with age (P < 0·001) and systolic (P = 0·053) and diastolic (P = 0·002) blood pressure elevation, and associated inversely with flow-mediated dilation (P = 0·014). In women, CMV antibody titres did not associate with any of the analysed parameters. In a multivariate regression model, which included traditional atherosclerotic risk factors, CMV antibody titres were independent determinants for systolic (P = 0·029) and diastolic (P = 0·004) blood pressure elevation and flow-mediated dilation (P = 0·014) in men. High CMV antibody titres are associated independently with blood pressure and brachial artery flow-mediated dilation in young men. This association supports the hypothesis that common CMV infection and/or an immune response to CMV may lead to impaired vascular function at a young age.