Chlamydia pneumoniae in Atherosclerotic Carotid Artery Plaques: High Prevalence among Heavy Smokers

Dobrilovic, Nick; Wright, Creighton B.; Vadlamani, Lou; Meyer, Mark
June 2001
American Surgeon;Jun2001, Vol. 67 Issue 6, p589
Academic Journal
This study was designed to determine the prevalence of Chlamydia pneumoniae in carotid artery plaques. Although there have been numerous studies evaluating coronary plaques for this bacterium fewer studies have assessed noncoronary vasculature. In addition we wished to evaluate whether correlation exists between the presence of C. pneumoniae in carotid plaques and established risk factors for atherosclerosis. Sixty intact carotid artery plaques removed during surgery (carotid endarterectomy) were formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded according to conventional techniques. These samples were evaluated by polymerase chain reaction analysis to detect presence of C. pneumoniae DNA. Results were tabulated and compared against established risk factors for atherosclerosis: diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, age, and smoking. Forty-two (70.0%) of the 60 plaques that were evaluated tested positive for the presence of C. pneumoniae DNA by polymerase chain reaction analysis. In the sample defined as being from heavy smokers (greater than 15-pack-year history) 33 (94.3%) of 35 plaques tested positive whereas two (5.7%) tested negative. This correlation demonstrated statistical significance (P = 1.36 x 10[sup -6], two-tailed Fisher exact test). Presence of C. pneumoniae in carotid plaques demonstrated no statistically significant correlation with diabetes, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia. Age as a risk factor was examined but not statistically evaluated because of the narrow range within our patient sample. Analysis of the data reveals that C. pneumoniae is present in large numbers of atheromatous plaques as is consistent with emerging data. What is interesting though is that 33 (94.3%) of the 35 smokers had plaques that tested positive for the bacterium as opposed to only nine (36.0%) of the 25 nonsmokers. Identification of specific populations exhibiting a high prevalence of C. pneumoniae may serve to focus future studies. Ongoing investigation will seek to deter...


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