The possible role of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in the origin of atherosclerosis

J Clin Virol. 2000 Feb;16(1):17-24. doi: 10.1016/s1386-6532(99)00064-5.


Background: The biological properties of some herpesviruses such as the ability of latent persistency in the host cells and the presence of viral DNA in atherosclerotic lesions, suggest the possible role of herpesviruses in the development of atherosclerosis. Although many authors proved the presence of viral DNA in arterial wall tissue, the role of herpesviruses in the origin and progress of atherogenesis still remains unclear.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to confirm the presence of viral DNA in arterial wall and to associate the presence of these viruses with the development of atherosclerosis in patients with ischemic heart disease (IHD).

Study design: A possible role of HCMV, EBV and HHV6 in the development of atherosclerosis was tested in 244 IHD patients and 87 coronarographically negative controls. The presence of viral DNA in aortic and venous walls, as well as in a peripheral blood samples was tested by the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) accompanied by, immunological tests for anti-virus antibodies IgM and IgG types for all experimental groups.

Results: The genomic DNA of HCMV was found in 76 and 59%, DNA of EBV in 59 and 50%, and DNA of HHV6 in 0.08 and 0.0%, of arterial walls of IHD patients and non-ischemic control group, respectively. No viral DNA was found in venous samples. Significant association (P < 0.01) has been proved between CMV infection and IHD.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that HCMV and EBV can be found in the arterial wall, so that the arterial wall could be a potential site of persistency of those viruses. We also proved a significant association between the presence of HCMV DNA in aortic walls and atherosclerosis. Despite of the high genetic and biological similarity between CMV and HHV6 no substantial role of HHV6 in atherosclerosis has been proved.

MeSH terms

  • Aorta / virology
  • Cell Line
  • Coronary Artery Disease / virology*
  • Coronary Vessels / virology
  • Cytomegalovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / complications*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / virology
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae Infections / virology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Herpesvirus 6, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Veins / virology


  • DNA, Viral