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Ann Periodontol. 2001 Dec;6(1):1-8.

The relationship between infection, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease: an overview.

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Department of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland.


Atherosclerotic plaques were likened histologically to healing inflammatory lesions by Russell Ross, who proposed a "response to injury" hypothesis for their formation. More recently, intraplaque inflammation has been postulated to play a role in thinning of the fibrous cap, plaque rupture, and superadded thrombosis. Potential causes for vascular injury include mechanical stress, smoke exposure, hypercholesterolemia, hyperhomocysteinemia, and chronic infection (direct, or indirect). Blood levels of inflammatory markers (e.g., C-reactive protein [CRP]; serum amyloid A [SAA]; fibrinogen; plasma viscosity; erythrocyte sedimentation rate [ESR]; leukocyte count, low serum albumin) have been associated with vascular risk factors and with prevalent and incident atherothrombotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) (coronary heart disease, [CHD]; stroke; and peripheral arterial disease). More recently, cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6 [IL-6]) and soluble adhesion molecules (e.g., intercellular adhesion molecule-1, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1) have been associated with both risk factors and disease; and offer potential therapeutic targets for nonspecific "anti-inflammatory" treatment of arterial disease. Infections associated with arterial disease include specific infections (Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori) and nonspecific infections (periodontal infections, respiratory tract infections). Recent meta-analyses have shown that associations of serum markers of C. pneumoniae and H. pylori with arterial disease, risk factors, or potential intermediary mechanisms for disease are weaker than was first suggested by early reports. Likewise, further studies and meta-analyses are required to evaluate the epidemiologic relationships of CVD to periodontal infection and disease and to chronic pulmonary infections and disease. The weaker the associations between chronic infections and CVD, the larger is the size of randomized controlled trials required to establish (or exclude) a preventive effect of infection treatment. While control of chronic infection in the mouth, stomach or lungs is appropriate for its local effects, proving its efficacy in prevention of CVD presents a continuing challenge to medical science.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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