Infection and Atherosclerosis Development

Arch Med Res. 2015 Jul;46(5):339-50. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2015.05.006. Epub 2015 May 21.


Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease hallmarked by chronic inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and lipid accumulation in the vasculature. Although lipid modification and deposition are thought to be a major source of the continuous inflammatory stimulus, a large body of evidence suggests that infectious agents may contribute to atherosclerotic processes. This could occur by either direct effects through infection of vascular cells and/or through indirect effects by induction of cytokine and acute phase reactant proteins by infection at other sites. Multiple bacterial and viral pathogens have been associated with atherosclerosis by seroepidemiological studies, identification of the infectious agent in human atherosclerotic tissue, and experimental studies demonstrating an acceleration of atherosclerosis following infection in animal models of atherosclerosis. This review will focus on those infectious agents for which biological plausibility has been demonstrated in animal models and on the challenges of proving a role of infection in human atherosclerotic disease.

Keywords: Antibiotic trials; Atherosclerosis; Chlamydia pneumoniae; Infectious agents; Periodontal pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / microbiology
  • Atherosclerosis / virology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelium, Vascular / microbiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / virology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Inflammation / virology
  • Lipid Metabolism