Background: Epidemiological studies have shown that periodontitis may be associated with presence of atherosclerosis. DNA from periodontal pathogens has been detected in atherosclerotic lesions, but viable oral bacteria have not yet been isolated from atherosclerotic plaques. The purpose of the present study was to determine if viable oral bacteria could be isolated from atherosclerotic lesions and if DNA from periodontal pathogens could be detected by use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques.
Methods: Seventy-nine specimens of atherosclerotic plaque removed from carotid or femoral arteries during surgery were immediately transferred to reduced transport fluid and brought to the laboratory. The calcified tissue was meticulously cut into fine pieces and used for cultivation of Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, P. nigrescens, Campylobacter rectus, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Tannerella forsythensis, and oral streptococci. The material from 24 of the specimens was homogenized, DNA was extracted, and PCR amplification of 16S rDNA with universal and specific primers was carried out. Finally, the PCR products were sequenced.
Results: None of the samples yielded growth of the oral bacteria under investigation. In all the 24 specimens bacterial DNA was detected and likewise DNA of P. intermedia was found in the samples. P. nigrescens and P. gingivalis were found sporadically.
Conclusions: Viable oral bacteria could not be isolated from the atheromas, but the data confirm that DNA of periodontal pathogens can be detected in atherosclerotic plaques. However, the finding that DNA from P. intermedia constantly occured in the examined samples was new. Further studies may focus on the simultaneous occurrence of identical clones of this species in subgingival plaque and atherosclerotic plaques.