A study carried out by a team of Chinese doctors says that high blood pressure could be caused by a common virus. This finding has possible implications for millions of people around the world.
The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infects most adults but is repressed by the body's immune system and rarely causes any symptoms.
But a team from Beijing Chaoyang Hospital's cardiology centre has found the first evidence of a link between HCMV and essential hypertension, according to a report published on the website of the US medical journal Circulation.
Essential hypertension, the world's most common form of high blood pressure, has in the past been linked to lifestyle and genetic factors.
The findings "demonstrate a novel link between HCMV infection and essential hypertension," according to the report.
"These findings may reveal important insights into the pathogenesis of essential hypertension," it added.
The study could have widespread health implications -- the World Health Organization says around a billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure.
Former Circulation chief editor James Willerson posted comments on Beijing Chaoyang Hospital's website, saying the findings of the study "might present a new strategy for preventing and treating cardiovascular disease".