November 11, 1997
Media Contact: Karen Infeld
Phone: (410)955-1534

Adenoviruses, viruses that cause common upper respiratory infections, may also cause life-threatening heart muscle inflammation in adults, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins researchers.

The finding contradicts previous evidence that the enterovirus Coxsackie B was the major cause of the inflammation, known as viral myocarditis. Enteroviruses enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract.

In data to be presented at 8:30 a.m., Nov. 11 at the American Heart Association's 70th annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla., investigators at Hopkins and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston report on tests of autopsied heart tissue from 13 patients. Seven of the patients had myocarditis; six did not.

Virus was detected in five of the case hearts (71.4 percent) but in none of the control hearts. Genetic material from adenovirus was identified in afflicted hearts as frequently as that from enterovirus. Also, genetic material from both types of viruses was detected in three of the case hearts. No other types of viruses were found.

"Our results suggest that adenovirus is a causative agent in a significant proportion of the adult cases of viral myocarditis that we studied," says Robert E. McCarthy III, M.D., the study's lead author and a cardiology fellow. "They also suggest that adenovirus and enterovirus could work together to cause this condition."

The study's other authors were Joshua M. Hare, M.D.; Chi-Long Chen, M.D.; Ralph H. Hruban, M.D.; Edward K. Kasper, M.D.; and Kenneth L. Baughman, M.D., of Hopkins; and Ji Y. Ni, M.D., and Jeffrey A. Towbin, M.D., of Baylor.

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