Can Germs Lead to a Heart Attack?

Study ties bacteria strain to atherosclerosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A bacteria might play a vital role in atherosclerosis -- or hardening of the arteries – the number one killer in the U.S.

Dr. Emil Kozarov and a cohort of researchers at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine identified the bacteria, which is thought to play a role in vascular pathogenesis. Researchers had previously been unable to isolate live bacteria from atherosclerotic tissue, but Kozarov and his team were able to isolate plaques from a 78-year-old male patient who had suffered a heart attack.

Researchers used genomic analysis to look for culturable bacteria while investigating five sets of diseased and healthy arterial tissue. They isolated the bacteria known as bacillus Enterobacter hormaechei from the patient's tissue, usually found in blood infections. The microbe was found in abundance in diseased tissues but not healthy ones.

The finding suggests a chronic infection might underlie atherosclerosis.

Kozarov explained that In order to test if bacteria are involved in vascular pathogenesis, researchers have to be able to not only detect bacterial DNA, but also isolate the strains from the vascular wall from the patient. Once in circulation, the bacteria can persist in an organism for extended periods of time while moving toward and "colonizing" distant sites, which can lead to failure to respond to antibiotics, vascular tissue colonization and initiation of atherosclerosis.

Kozarov said the study's findings warrant the need for additional research looking into infections causing cardiovascular disease.

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Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
January 7, 2011