Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory response, probably to a range of initiating causes. Chronic infection with Chlamydia pneumoniae (C.pn) has been suggested as one cause, but the nature of the association is controversial, in large part due to lack of an identified mechanism to link infection with the atherosclerotic process in man. This study examined 139 consecutive subjects with stable chest pain, with the aim of correlating the serological status of C.pn infection with the pattern of secretion of cytokines from CD4⁺ T lymphocytes. C.pn seropositive subjects secreted significantly more interleukin (IL)-4 than did those who were C.pn seronegative (P = 0·02). No significant difference was noted for secreted interferon (IFN)-γ. The amount of secreted IL-4, but not of secreted IFN-γ, correlated positively with the extent of coronary artery disease (P = 0·006). A similar correlation with secreted IL-4 was not identified with Helicobacter pylori infection. These results support the hypothesis that C.pn infection contributes to the inflammatory process responsible for coronary artery atherosclerosis. The method used to detect cytokine secretion involves ligation of CD40L on blood CD4⁺ T cells, which may have relevance to tissue events.
Clinical and Experimental Immunology Vol. 146, Issue 2, p. 197-202