Purpose of review: To describe the most recent epidemiologic, molecular and immunologic literature related to the role of infectious antigens in sarcoidosis pathogenesis, with a focus upon Mycobacterium and Proprionibacterium species.
Recent findings: Recent studies of successful molecular analysis for and humoral immunity to mycobacterial antigens from sarcoidosis patients have renewed interest in a potential role of mycobacteria in sarcoidosis. One study provided molecular and immunologic evidence for mycobacteria among sarcoidosis subjects from the United States. These studies, while preliminary, provide the groundwork for more in-depth studies of the potential role of mycobacteria in sarcoidosis pathogenesis. Proprionibacteria have also been proposed as a cause of sarcoidosis; a study of the detection of Proprionibacterium species nucleic acids throughout the lung of sarcoidosis and control subjects, however, suggests that these organisms are less likely to be causal.
Summary: While the studies to date do not fulfill Koch's postulates, they do add further support to the hypothesis that infectious antigens, particularly those from mycobacteria, may have a causal role in some sarcoidosis cases. In future studies that purport to show an association of microbial antigen(s) with sarcoidosis, investigation of genetic risk factors contributing to risk will be important, in order to explain why some patients are found to have an association with microbial antigens and others are not.