Background: The cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, although mycobacteria have been implicated. We examined sarcoid tissues for human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) in addition to mycobacterial genomic sequences.
Methods: Biopsy samples from 17 patients with sarcoidosis were studied (eight transbronchial, 27 lymph node, two skin, and two oral mucosa). We used tissues (n = 137) from 96 patients without sarcoidosis as negative controls. A nested PCR was applied to amplify a segment of open reading frame (ORF) 26 of the HHV-8 genome, and a heminested PCR was to amplify a segment of ORF 25 of HHV-8 and of the 16 S rRNA gene of mycobacteria. Differences in base sequences of the amplified fragments were resolved with single-strand conformation polymorphism and dideoxy sequencing.
Findings: HHV-8 ORF 26 DNA was detected in significantly higher proportions of sarcoid than of non-sarcoid tissue samples from lung (8/8 vs 0/54; p < 0.0001), lymph nodes (26/27 vs 6/29; p < 0.0001), skin (2/2 vs 0/17; p = 0.006), and oral tissues (2/2 vs 1/13; p = 0.029). 31 (82%) of the 38 ORF 26 DNA-positive sarcoid specimens were also positive for ORF 25 DNA. For mycobacteria-like 16 S rRNA DNA, the proportion positive was significantly higher in sarcoid than non-sarcoid tissues for lymph node samples (11/27 vs 2/29; p = 0.003) but not for other tissues (lung 3/8 vs 22/54; skin 2/2 vs 15/17; and oral tissues 1/2 vs 0/13). Overall, the prevalence of HHV-8 ORF 26 sequences was higher in sarcoid tissues than in non-sarcoid tissues (p < 0.0001). When patients whose tissues were included in a masked phase of the study were treated as units of analysis, eight of eight sarcoidosis patients were positive for HHV-8 ORF 26 DNA, compared with three of 56 control patients (p < 0.0001); for mycobacteria-like sequences, three of eight sarcoidosis patients were positive, compared with four of 56 controls (p = 0.0464). The HHV-8 ORF 26 sequences, ten of which were unique, could be segregated into four groups according to peptide motifs. In seven of nine patients from whom biopsy samples were taken from various sites, different sequences were recovered. The mycobacterial sequences amplified from sarcoid tissues were also varied, but none was homologous to those of known species.
Interpretation: Variant HHV-8 DNA sequences are found in a wide range of sarcoid but not non-sarcoid tissues. Mycobacteria-like 16 S rRNA sequences are more frequently present in sarcoid lymph nodes and not in other tissue types, but do not indicate infection by a particular mycobacterial species.