Oral pathogens, including periodontopathic bacteria, are thought to be aetiological factors in the development of cardiovascular disease. In this study, the presence of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Fusobacterium nucleatum-periodonticum-simiae group, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, Prevotella nigrescens and Tannerella forsythia in atheromatous plaques from coronary arteries was determined by real-time PCR. Forty-four patients displaying cardiovascular disease were submitted to periodontal examination and endarterectomy of coronary arteries. Approximately 60-100 mg atherosclerotic tissue was removed surgically and DNA was obtained. Quantitative detection of periodontopathic bacteria was performed using universal and species-specific TaqMan probe/primer sets. Total bacterial and periodontopathic bacterial DNA were found in 94.9 and 92.3 %, respectively, of the atheromatous plaques from periodontitis patients, and in 80.0 and 20.0 %, respectively, of atherosclerotic tissues from periodontally healthy subjects. All periodontal bacteria except for the F. nucleatum-periodonticum-simiae group were detected, and their DNA represented 47.3 % of the total bacterial DNA obtained from periodontitis patients. Porphyromonas gingivalis, A. actinomycetemcomitans and Prevotella intermedia were detected most often. The presence of two or more periodontal species could be observed in 64.1 % of the samples. In addition, even in samples in which a single periodontal species was detected, additional unidentified microbial DNA could be observed. The significant number of periodontopathic bacterial DNA species in atherosclerotic tissue samples from patients with periodontitis suggests that the presence of these micro-organisms in coronary lesions is not coincidental and that they may in fact contribute to the development of vascular diseases.