Heart Attack (cont.)

Among male heart attack survivors, Gupta and colleagues in London found that increased levels of blood antibodies against C. pneumoniae were associated with an increased risk of developing another adverse cardiac event (defined as an imminent heart attack requiring urgent treatment, another non-fatal heart attack, or sudden death from a heart attack). Moreover, they found that treatment with azithromycin, a potent antibiotic against C. pneumoniae, not only decreased antibodies levels but also decreased the risk of adverse cardiac events.

How chronic infections may cause atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease is not clearly known. It may be caused by direct infectious damage to the artery walls, by disturbances in the body's cholesterol (or other lipid) metabolism, or by increasing the body's tendency to form blood clots. Further research is needed to clarify the connection (and also to validate all of the observations to date).

Atherosclerosis may therefore turn out to be caused or compounded by a chronic bacterial infection. And this is a condition that is potentially treatable and curable with antibiotics.

Lest this concept of coronary artery disease seem just wishful thinking, viewers are reminded of a similar change in concept in the causation of peptic ulcers. For many years, stress and excess acid were believed to be important causes of ulcer disease. Now, H. pylori (a bacteria causing chronic infection of the stomach lining) is believed to be the major cause of ulcer disease. Instead of antacids, current treatment of ulcer disease is with combinations of antibiotics to eradicate this bacteria.

In the years ahead, you may be given antibiotics to keep your heart in tiptop shape. Take that to heart!

Last Editorial Review: 2/1/2005