Microscopic menace may infect arteries
are finding more and more evidence that a bacterial infection could cause
heart disease. This would explain the cycle of heart disease occurrences
from 1940 to 1970. Scientists say the rise and fall in numbers is strangely
similar to that of an infectious epidemic.
Researchers are investigating the theory that Chlamydia pneumoniae,
bacteria that cause sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia, may also damage
arterial walls. This damage eventually leads to a buildup of cholesterol or
an increase in blood clots, both risk factors for heart disease.
Scientists took notice of this theory when they were studying a group of
people suffering from atherosclerosis. They found that more than 73 percent
had C. pneumoniae in the arteries of their hearts. Only 4 percent of
the group without atherosclerosis had evidence of the bacteria.
Now, researchers studying Alaska Natives have found that C. pneumoniae
were present in plaques found in the arteries of 60 people who died in
accidents. The interesting news for researchers was that the bacteria were
also present in blood samples of 56 of those 60 people up to 26 years before
Before a substance can be established as a cause of a disease, it has to
be proven to be present before the disease is diagnosed. This new study
supports the theory that the presence of C. pneumoniae in clogged
arteries is more than a coincidence -- which could lead to new ways to
prevent and treat heart and artery disease.