Background: The association of Chlamydia pneumoniae with atherosclerosis is controversial. We investigated the presence of C. pneumoniae and other Chlamydia spp. in atheromatous carotid artery tissue.
Methods: Forty elective carotid endarterectomy patients were recruited (27 males, mean age 65 and 13 females mean age 68), 4 had bilateral carotid endarterectomies (n= 44 endarterectomy specimens). Control specimens were taken from macroscopically normal carotid artery adjacent to the atheromatous lesions (internal controls), except in 8 cases where normal carotid arteries from post mortem (external controls) were used. Three case-control pairs were excluded when the HLA DRB gene failed to amplify from the DNA. Genus specific primers to the major outer membrane protein (MOMP) gene were used in a nested polymerase chain reaction (nPCR) in 41 atheromatous carotid specimens and paired controls. PCR inhibition was monitored by spiking with target C. trachomatis. Atheroma severity was graded histologically. Plasma samples were tested by microimmunofluorescence (MIF) for antibodies to C. pneumoniae, C. trachomatis and C. psittaci and the corresponding white cells were tested for Chlamydia spp. by nPCR.
Results: C. pneumoniae was not detected in any carotid specimen. Twenty-five of 38 (66%) plasma specimens were positive for C. pneumoniae IgG, 2/38 (5%) for C. trachomatis IgG and 1/38 (3%) for C. psittaci IgG.
Conclusions: We were unable to show an association between the presence of Chlamydia spp. and atheroma in carotid arteries in the presence of a high seroprevalence of C. pneumoniae antibodies in Northern Ireland.