Cohort study of cytomegalovirus infection as a risk factor for carotid intimal-medial thickening, a measure of subclinical atherosclerosis

F. Javier Nieto, Erwin Adam, Paul Sorlie, Homayoon Farzadegan, Joseph L. Melnick, George W. Comstock, Moyses Szklo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

265 Scopus citations


Background: Animal studies as well as clinical and cross sectional epidemiological studies in humans have suggested a possible role of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and other herpesvirus infections in the development of cardiovascular disease. Methods and Results: The present report is based on a case control study nested within a historical cohort. The case group comprised 150 individuals with elevated carotid intimal-medial thickness (IMT) measured by B-mode ultrasound at the first two examinations of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study (1987 through 1992). The control group comprised 150 age- and sex-matched individuals with low IMT. Antibody titers for CMV and herpesvirus 1 and 2 were determined in sera obtained in 1974 as part of a community-wide survey conducted in Washington Country, Maryland. Case subjects had higher mean CMV antibody titers in 1974 sera than control subjects, although the difference was not statistically significant when adjusted for other cardiovascular risk factors. There was evidence of a graded relation between the odds of intimal-medial thickening and the levels of CMV antibodies that remained significant alter adjustment for the main cardiovascular risk factors (P=.013). The adjusted odds ratio for a high CMV antibody titer (a positive/negative value ≤20) compared with a positive/negative value <4 was 5.3 (95% confidence interval, 1.5 to 18.0). Conclusions: The results from this first population-based cohort study of CMV infection and carotid IMT are compatible with the hypothesis of a causal role of CMV in atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-927
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1996


  • atherosclerosis
  • carotid arteries
  • follow-up studies
  • risk factors
  • viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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