HPV strains linked to women's heart disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
HPV linked to heart disease
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Certain strains of HPV - human papillomavirus - might also cause cardiovascular disease in women, finds a new investigation. Scientists say HPV infection isn’t known to cause heart disease for certain, but they have found a strong link between the virus and CVD in women.

Scientists discovered the link between HPV, heart attack and stroke in a study that included nearly 2,500 women ages 20-59 that were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2003-2006.

In their finding, researchers noted a strong link between HPV and heart disease in women who had cancer producing strains.

The scientists compared three groups of women – those who weren’t infected, women with cancer producing HPV and a group with other strains of the virus.

According to Dr. Hsu-Ko Kuo, co-author of the study, "We found that oncogenic HPV types were strongly associated with CVD, but we did not observe a correlation between HPV and numerous other metabolic risks.

When the researchers looked for other typical CVD risks, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides and increased body mass index, they were unable to account for why the women developed heart disease.

They also took into account race, sexual behavior, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The authors say the finding might help explain cardiovascular disease that develops in 20 percent of individuals who don’t have typical risk factors.

Lead author Dr. Ken Fujise, Director, Division of Cardiology of University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston said, "This has important clinical implications.

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First, the HPV vaccine may also help prevent heart disease. Second, physicians should monitor patients with cancer-associated HPV to prevent heart attack and stroke, as well as HPV patients already diagnosed with CVD to avoid future cardiovascular events."

The authors aren’t sure why HPV raises the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.

They suspect it may be related to suppression of two proteins by HPV that are also thought to promote heart disease - p53 and retinoblastoma protein (pRb).

P53 is linked to the formation of artery plaques known as atherosclerosis and the retinoblastoma gene plays a role in cell function.

"If this biological mechanism is proven, a drug compound that inhibits the inactivation of p53 could help prevent CVD in women already infected with HPV," said Fujise.

The researchers plan to continue their observations to see if women who receive the HPV vaccine have better cardiovascular outcomes.

They also suggest more research into understanding the molecular pathway between HPV and atherosclerosis and whether the same finding might apply to men infected with human papilloma virus.

Inactivation of tumor suppressor gene by HPV that is linked to heart disease may make women with certain strains of the virus at high risk for heart disease that the authors say is of “serious public health significance.”

The researchers recommend close monitoring for cardiovascular disease in women with cancer causing HPV strains.

J Am Coll Cardiol, 2011; 58:2001-2006, doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2011.07.038
"Human Papillomavirus and Cardiovascular Disease Among U.S. Women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003 to 2006"
Hsu-Ko Kuo et al, November, 2011

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