September 10, 2019 (ScienceDaily)
Sometimes, certain people who come down with a severe case of the flu develop life-threatening heart problems. This has been seen to occur even in people who previously did not have heart problems. Recently, new research has been underway that will hopefully improve the care of patients with severe flu.
In a study led by Jacob Yount at The Ohio State University, for the first time ever, a link has been discovered in mice between a genetic mutation, the flu, and heart irregularities. This study appears in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It is already known that mutations in gene IFITM3, responsible for making a protein crucial during the early stages of the human immune response, increase the risk of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
In mice, researchers realized in the absence of this gene, the risk for heart abnormalities, such as a decreased heart rate, an irregular heart rate and even death, increased.
This study found that not only can a severe case of the flu exacerbate underlying heart conditions, it can negatively impact a healthy heart, especially in those whose flu requires emergency care.
During their investigation, researchers confirmed from heart tissue samples that it had been infected with the flu virus. Furthermore, they found a possible condition that would explain such a link – fibrosis, or a buildup of collagen in tissue.
These findings are critical and will help to pave the way for new therapies that could potentially save people that are at risk.