The common respiratory pathogen Chlamydia pneumoniae has been implicated in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease and acute myocardial infarction. In order to verify the endovascular presence of potentially viable chlamydia by detection of genomic DNA, we examined atherosclerotic arteries from various vascular regions using a C. pneumoniae specific nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The samples were obtained during surgical revascularization procedures or at autopsy. Chlamydial DNA was detected in 51/238 (21%) atherosclerotic samples. A total of 17 non-atherosclerotic control samples were PCR-negative. Chlamydial presence was detected in 36/140 (26%) vascular samples obtained at coronary revascularization procedures, in 9/61 (15%) samples from carotid artery stenosis, 3/17 (18%) samples from the aorta, and 3/20 (15%) iliac artery samples. Histomorphological discrimination of infected and non-infected arterial samples was not possible. Antichlamydial IgG and IgM response as examined by microimmunofluorescence assay did not aid identification of individual endovascular infection. C. pneumoniae is present in a significant proportion of atherosclerotic arteries. Its occurrence in atheromatous plaques is not limited to coronary arteries and may be considered indicative of an infectious component in atherosclerosis. However, it remains unclear whether chlamydia actually initiates atherosclerotic injury, facilitates its progression, or merely colonizes pre-existing atheromata.