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An article in the medical journal , Circulation, shows that infection with Cytomegalovirus (CMV), a usually dormant virus that can cause mononucleosis, is associated with a higher risk of heart attacks or strokes.

The authors also showed that infections with more than one of several common disease-causing germs can also increase risk for heart attacks and strokes. People who had one or more of CMV, Chlamydia pneumoniae (respiratory infections), Helicobacter pylori (ulcers), and hepatitis A (liver disease) were also at increased risk for heart attacks. Thus, people exposed to all four pathogens had a higher risk compared with those exposed to just one of the four.

Researchers continue to debate whether exposure to common infections contributes to heart disease. While there have been a large number of studies, most have been small and many lack long-term follow up. These authors studied blood that had been banked from 3,168 Canadians who participated in the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) study. Patients in the study had cardiovascular disease or were at high risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke or diabetes. The researchers measured antibodies to the four pathogens and found that 82.9 percent had antibodies against Chlamydia Pneumonia, 61.7 percent of the participants had antibodies for Helicobacter pylori, 76 percent for hepatitis A, and 70.4 percent for CMV.

The risk associated with blood levels of the various pathogens compared to getting a heart attack was followed for 4.5 years. The only pathogen linked to cardiovascular disease risk was CMV, which increased the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death by about 24 percent. In addition, the researchers found that people who had antibodies to all four pathogens were 41 percent more likely to suffer heart attack, stroke or die from cardiovascular disease than those who had antibodies for zero or one pathogen. This study appears to have demonstrated a greater significance of viral infections than bacterial infections.

Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. December 25, 2002. Marek Smieja, M.D., Ph.D., Judy Gnarpe, Ph.D.; Eva Lonn, M.D.; Hakan Gnarpe, M.D., Ph.D.; Gunnar Olsson, M.D., Ph.D.; Qilong Yi, Ph.D.; Vladimir Dzavik, M.D.; Matthew McQueen, M.D., Ph.D.; and Salim Yusef, M.B.B.S., D.Phil.

Checked 8/31/05

May 19th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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