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Ann Vasc Surg. 1999 Jul;13(4):421-5.

Demonstration of viable Chlamydia pneumoniae in atherosclerotic plaques of carotid arteries by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.

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Department of Vascular Surgery, IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


The presence of Chlamydia pneumoniae in atheromas has been demonstrated in several studies. Culture of the organism from arterial tissue has been difficult. We report the use of a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction to detect viable Chlamydia pneumoniae in carotid atheromas. We analyzed 30 patients (14 females, mean age 69.6 +/- 8.8 years) who underwent surgery for the removal of atherosclerotic plaques from carotid arteries. During surgery, samples of lingual vein and superior thyroideal artery were also taken. We applied two molecular biology techniques to the carotid plaques on lingual vein or thyroideal artery samples: 1) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and 2) reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR) for the detection of bacterial mRNA, employing PCR primers designed to detect a fragment of the 16S rRNA gene. Blood samples were obtained from the patients for determination of Chlamydia pneumoniae IgG, IgA, and IgM antibody titers by a microimmunofluorescence technique. The results of the present study confirmed the presence of viable Chlamydia pneumoniae in atheromas and support the hypothesis that the organism may be an active factor in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.

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