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CMAJ. 2000 Jul 11;163(1):49-56.

Emerging relations between infectious diseases and coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis.

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Department of Medicine, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ont.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries. The cause is multifactorial. A substantial proportion of patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) do not have traditional risk factors. Infectious diseases may play a role in these cases, or they may intensify the effect of other risk factors. The association of CAD and Chlamydia pneumoniae infection is firmly established, but causality is yet to be proven. The link with other infectious agents or conditions, such as cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, Helicobacter pylori and periodontitis, is more controversial. Cytomegalovirus infection is more strongly linked than native CAD to coronary artery restenosis after angioplasty and to accelerated CAD after cardiac transplantation. However, new data on this topic are appearing in the literature almost every month. The potential for novel therapeutic management of cardiovascular disease and stroke is great if infection is proven to cause or accelerate CAD or atherosclerosis. However, physicians should not "jump the gun" and start using antibiotic therapy prematurely for CAD. The results of large randomized clinical trials in progress will help establish causality and the benefits of antimicrobial therapy in CAD.

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