The original findings of peripheral anergy in sarcoidosis led to the conclusion that sarcoidosis was a disease associated with immune deficiency, but patients with sarcoidosis do not appear to suffer from repeated infections suggestive of immune suppression. With the technique of bronchoalveolar lavage it is now possible to examine the local immune response within the lung, the most commonly affected organ in sarcoidosis. In this study three different indices of cell mediated immunity (lymphocyte transformation, interleukin-2 production, and interleukin-1 production) have been examined by comparison of cells recovered by lavage with those collected from peripheral blood. It was found that in vitro anergy was confined to peripheral blood cells, where all three markers of the immune response used in this study was impaired in the 12 patients with sarcoidosis group when compared with results in the 12 controls, with the most depressed responses seen in those patients classified as having active disease (lymphocyte proliferation 45% (SD 17%); interleukin-2 production 44% (13%), and interleukin-1 production 31% (10%) of control levels). By contrast, T lymphocytes recovered from the lungs of patients with sarcoidosis showed a greater response than did those from controls in terms of lymphocyte transformation and interleukin-2 production; these differences were greatest in those with active disease (lymphocyte proliferation 209% (27%) and interleukin-2 production 202% (19%) of control levels). Interleukin-1 production by cells of the monocyte lineage recovered from the lung gave similar results to those of the control and sarcoid groups. It is concluded that the anergy seen in the peripheral blood compartment possibly reflects redistribution of T lymphocytes rather than a generalised immune deficiency.
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