Background: There is increasing evidence that exposure to moulds (fungi) may influence the development of sarcoidosis. To assess the influence of the environmental exposure, a study was undertaken to determine the exposure to fungi in homes of subjects with sarcoidosis.
Methods: Subjects were patients with clinically established sarcoidosis recruited during the period September 2007 till June 2010. Of these 55 were newly diagnosed and currently under treatment for less than one year, 25 had been treated and had no recurrence and 27 had been treated but had recurrence of the disease. Controls were healthy subjects without any respiratory symptoms (n = 30). Samples of air (about 2.5 m3) were taken in the bedroom of the subjects using a portable pump and cellulose ester filters. The filters were analysed for the content of the enzyme N-acetylhexosaminidase (NAHA) as a marker of fungal cell biomass, using a specific substrate and a fluorescent technique and expressed as NAHA units (U)/m3.
Results: Compared to controls, subjects undergoing treatment of the disease (newly diagnosed or with recurrence) had significantly higher activities of NAHA in their homes than controls (33.6 and 39.9 vs 10.0 U/m3, p < 0.001 and <0.001). Among controls only 5 out of 30 subjects had levels of NAHA above the second quartile value (14 U/m3). In homes of subjects with newly diagnosed disease with treatment less than one year, values above 14 NAHA U/m3 were found among 35 out of 55 and among those with recurrent disease among 18 out of 27.
Conclusions: The higher activities of NAHA enzyme found in homes of subjects with active and recurrent sarcoidosis suggest that exposure to fungi is related to the risk of sarcoidosis. Further environmental studies to assess the importance of this exposure for subjects with sarcoidosis are warranted. The results suggest that remedial actions in homes with high levels of fungi may be justified.