A surprising number of extra-gastrointestinal diseases have been reported to be associated with Helicobacter pylori infection, including coronary heart disease and stroke. Since coronary heart disease is the principal cause of death in western countries, and since the known risk factors cannot fully explain the pathogenic mechanisms of the disease, the exploration of the role of possible causal agents has stimulated intense research. Infectious agents have been linked to coronary heart disease on epidemiological and pathogenic grounds. In 1994, H. pylori infection was reported to be one of them. Since then, a number of studies have been published with controversial results. Studies performed thus far show a high degree of heterogeneity in the selection of patients and also in the type of disease studied, i.e. coronary heart disease in general or acute myocardial infarction. Since the pathogenic development is most likely different for each of these two conditions (one chronic and the other acute) they should be studied separately. H. pylori infection can cause platelet aggregation and induces a procoagulant activity. H. pylori can also contribute to atherosclerosis, through increased concentration of homocysteine in the blood, caused by decreased levels of folic acid and cobalamin, or to an autoimmune process. Prospective cohort studies and interventional trials focusing separately on the chronic and acute phases of coronary heart disease and H. pylori infection should be performed in order to provide firm epidemiological data for a causal relationship.
© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.