New research shows infection from flu and not inflammation can cause cardiac complications

Jacob Yount, MD, professor of Microbial Infection and Immunity at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and his team of researchers have refuted a long-held prediction that heart problems associated with the flu are caused by inflammation in the lungs.
Instead, a new study in mice reveals the electrical malfunctions and heart scarring seen in some of the sickest flu patients are caused by direct influenza infection of cardiac cells. The study recently published in the journal Science Advances (external link).

The research team had seen flu viral particles in cardiac cells of infected mice in previous work but couldn’t say for sure their presence in the heart was driving cardiac damage. When researchers infected mice with a genetically altered flu virus that wasn’t able to replicate in heart cells, the mice developed classic inflammatory flu symptoms – but no cardiac complications.
"We showed that even when you have a very severe infection in the lungs, if you’re using that virus that can’t replicate in the heart, you don’t get those cardiac complications," Dr. Yount, who serves as lead author, says.
"It proves it’s direct infection of the heart that’s driving these complications. Now we need to figure out what direct infection does: Is it killing heart cells? Does it have long-term ramifications? Do repeated infections have heart complications that build up over time? There are a lot of questions now for us to answer."
Read more about how flu causes cardiac complications (external link).