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Helicobacter pylori infection and ischaemic heart disease: an overview of the general literature.

In the last years, a considerable number of studies have been performed on the correlation between Helicobacter pylori infection and ischaemic heart disease. The reason is the supposed role of some chronic infections in the genesis and development of vessel wall injury and atheromatous plaque, as already reported for Chlamydia pneumoniae and herpes viruses. While this association may be theoretically conceivable, it still remains debated from a practical point of view.

 Epidemiological and animal studies as well as some eradicating trials gave conflicting results, while studies investigating the specific molecular mimicry mechanisms induced by H. pylori strongly support the association. Moreover, none of the studies performed so far did take into account the effect of the genetic susceptibility to develop ischaemic heart disease or to respond to H. pylori infection.

In particular, while the exposure to some known risk factor for atherosclerosis should lead to develop ischaemic heart disease, no condition or exposure, either individual or in combination, completely explains the occurrence and the progression of the disease, as many patients develop ischaemic heart disease in the absence of any risk factor. Based on these concepts, can we state that H. pylori infection may cause the same effect in patients with ischaemic heart disease as in healthy subjects? Further studies are needed in order to clarify this issue.