In the last three years, doctors have been reporting soaring numbers of young Americans dying suddenly from a mysterious heart condition.
However, as the troubling trend in Americans’ heart health is emerging, doctors say they are baffled about what could be causing the problem.
Death rates from infective endocarditis have generally declined across the U.S. over the past two decades and were incredibly rare, until recently.
But they have alarmingly increased among young adults aged 25 to 44 since early 2021.
Because the condition is typically caused by injections, scientists and health officials are claiming that the spike in infective endocarditis is being triggered by drug use.
This research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, underscores a public health issue that intersects with the ongoing opioid crisis.
Infective endocarditis, often referred to as bacterial endocarditis, is a rare but serious condition where bacteria enter the bloodstream and infect the heart lining, valves, or blood vessels.
It poses a higher risk to individuals with heart valve abnormalities, previous valve surgeries, artificial valves, congenital heart defects, or a history of the disease.
If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications, including heart failure and life-threatening infections.
Alarmingly, it can also be a complication arising from the injection of drugs.
The study was conducted by Dr. Sudarshan Balla, an associate professor of medicine at the West Virginia University Heart and Vascular Institute.
He points out the concerning rise in death rates among young adults, speculating a strong link to the opioid crisis affecting several states.
“Our study findings raise a public health concern, especially since the deaths in younger age groups are on the rise,” he says in a statement.
“We speculate that this acceleration was likely, in the most part, due to the opioid crisis that has engulfed several states and involved principally younger adults.”
Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia exhibited a particularly pronounced increase in death rates due to infective endocarditis.
These states, heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic, have seen an increase in injection drug use–related infective endocarditis cases.
The findings of this study are a wake-up call, emphasizing the need for targeted public health interventions, especially in states heavily affected by the opioid crisis.
Dr. Balla stresses the need for comprehensive care plans that include screening and treatment for substance use disorder for those treated for infective endocarditis.
He also highlights the ongoing efforts in some states to implement harm reduction programs aimed at mitigating the risks associated with intravenous drug use, such as the spread of infectious diseases.
The researchers acknowledge certain limitations due to the reliance on death certificate data, which can sometimes contain inaccuracies.
However, despite infective endocarditis being caused by injections, and the fact that Covid mRNA shots are known to cause heart failure, the study didn’t look into the vaccine status of those who died.
They emphasize the need for further investigation to fully understand the reasons behind these trends among young adults and in specific states.
At this point, doctors remain baffled as to the cause of the spike.
What could be causing this mysterious spike in heart failure deaths in the past three years?