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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED STATES: Troubles with Heart Are Linked to HPV
Denise Grady
October 28, 2011
New York Times (10.25.11) - Friday, October 28, 2011

Women infected with human papillomavirus are two to three times as likely as those not infected to have suffered a heart attack or stroke, according to a new study. However, the findings are not definitive and only show an association between heart disease and HPV, not that HPV caused the disease.

Dr. Kenichi Fujise, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and colleagues sought to find out why some people suffer heart attacks but have none of the usual risk factors. About 20 percent of heart patients lack obvious risk factors, and researchers believe there may be underlying factors yet to be discovered.

Fujise's team studied HPV because the virus can degrade tumor suppressor protein p53, whose inactivation is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis. Data for the study were from 2,450 females ages 20-59 who participated in a national health survey during 2003-06. The women self-collected vaginal swab specimens for HPV testing and reported whether they ever had a heart attack or stroke.

Of the women, 1,141 had HPV. And of the 60 who reported heart disease, 39 had HPV. Adjusting for risks such as smoking, blood pressure, and weight, the team found women with HPV were 2.3 times as likely as the uninfected to have heart disease. Among women with HPV strains known to cause cancer, the risk was 2.86 times that of women who did not have HPV.

"I was thinking maybe there would be just a weak link or no link, but this is a strong link," said Fujise. Most people with HPV would not be at special risk for heart disease. Fujise suspects that heart disease, like cancer, would be likely to develop only among people with lingering HPV infections.

The full study, "Human Papillomavirus and Cardiovascular Disease Among US Women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003 to 2006," was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2011;58:2001- 2006).