Link between heart disease and bacterial infection. (fwd)

Duane Hewitt duane at IMMORTALITY.ORG
Sun Aug 9 14:38:23 EST 1998


Even though the evidence implicating infectious agents in heart disease remains
circumstantial it continues to accumulate in favor of the hypothesis that certain bacteria and
viruses may play a causative role in the formation of artery clogging plaques. Since this link
was first reported further experiments worth mentioning have been conducted. These
experiments strengthen the association of Chlamydia pneumoniae (which is primarily known
as a sexually transmitted disease) and cytomegalovirus (a common virus that causes
respiratory infections) with atherosclerosis.

The initial experiments, as previously mentioned, involved the detection of antibodies in heart
attack patients or bacterial proteins in arterial plaques. More recently animal studies have
yielded more direct evidence that Chlamydia infection measurably thickens arterial walls
particularly in animals with a genetic predisposition to high blood cholesterol or animals that
were fed a high fat diet. In the same study it was shown that when the rabbits were given an
antibiotic that is used to treat Chlamydia infections the arteries more closely resembled those
of uninfected animals.

An additional microbial contributor to heart disease may be the same bacterium that causes
gum disease. This was determined from the dental data of 1200 men and it was found that
those with dental infections had a higher risk of heart disease and strokes. Another small scale
study may lead to the implication of the bacteria that causes ulcers (Helicobacter pylori) in
heart disease. However one cautionary note is raised in interpreting this data is that the
people with these infections tend to have higher risk factors for both infection and heart
disease such as smoking, living in poverty, being older and therefore it is difficult to sort out
correlation from causation. Further research must be done to determine the mechanism by
which these infections may cause arterial plaques. It may be found that these are merely
opportunistic infections that take advantage of the weakened health of someone with heart

The clinical evidence in humans is inconclusive so far. However some ambitious studies are
currently be undertaken and the results should be available within a few years. If antibiotic
therapies prove to be successful in treating heart disease then this powerful new paradigm of
chronic diseases being caused by infectious agents may be applied to other diseases of old
age with some exciting results. We have learned in the twentieth century how to fight
infectious diseases and it seems less daunting to be fighting a microscopic enemy than what
was assumed to be the "natural" progression into old age.

Towards long life!

Duane Hewitt
duane at
The art and science of life extension.

More information about the Ageing mailing list