Chlamydia, cytomegalovirus, herpes and other infections appear to be associated with an increased risk of stroke, suggests a new study in the Archives of Neurology.
Known risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, heart disease, abnormal cholesterol levels and smoking, but many strokes occur in patients with none of these factors.
Now, there is new evidence that prior infection with pathogens such as herpes promotes inflammation, contributes to arterial disease and thereby increases stroke risk. Researcher Mitchell S. V. Elkind, of Columbia University Medical Center, tested more than 1,500 adults (average age 68.4, none of whom had a stroke) for antibodies indicating prior exposure to five common pathogens: Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex virus 1 and 2.
The subjects were then followed up annually over a seven year period. During this time period, 67 had strokes. "Each individual infection was positively, though not significantly, associated with stroke risk after adjusting for other risk factors," Elkind said. "The infectious burden index was associated with an increased risk of all strokes after adjusting for demographics and risk factors."
Elkind speculates that each of these common pathogens may persist after an acute infection and thus contribute to perpetuating a state of chronic, low-level infection. Additionally, prior studies demonstrated an association between each of these pathogens and cardiovascular diseases. "Our study could have potential clinical implications," Elkin said. "For example, treatment and eradication of these chronic pathogens might mitigate future risk of stroke."
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Source: Archives of Neurology