What causes sarcoidosis?

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Limited but encouraging progress has been made over the last several years in our understanding of the etiology of sarcoidosis as a result of recent investments in epidemiologic, immunologic, and molecular biologic studies. A recent US multicenter study of sarcoidosis found few environmental or occupational exposures associated with a two-fold or higher risk of development of sarcoidosis, suggesting noninfectious exposures play a small, if any, role in causing systemic sarcoidosis. In contrast, recent studies have linked infectious agents including mycobacterial and propionibacterial organisms with sarcoidosis. The association of sarcoidosis with the use of Th1-promoting biologic response modifiers is consistent with a central role for enhanced Th1 immune responses in the pathogenesis of sarcoidosis. Given evidence for a genetic predisposition to sarcoidosis, these findings suggest that the etiology of systemic sarcoidosis is linked to genetically determined enhanced Th1 immune responses to a limited number of microbial pathogens.

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