Strengthening suspicions that infections often trigger heart disease, doctors found that artery-clearing angioplasty frequently fails to work in people who carry a common virus called cytomegalovirus. CMV is a seemingly harmless bug that quietly infects most people if they live long enough. A study in the August 29 New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of angioplasty failure is five times higher than usual if people are infected with CMV.
Angioplasty is performed on 400,000 Americans with coronary artery disease every year. But in a third or so of the cases, the procedure fails. The arteries close up again--a problem called restenosis. The new study hints that eradicating the virus with drugs or a vaccine might reduce the incidence of restenosis.
The study followed 75 people undergoing angioplasty, 49 of whom had antibodies to CMV. Six months after the procedure, the arteries had clogged up again in 43% of the patients who were infected with CMV, compared to 8% of those who were not.