In a detailed controlled study of the cellular response to Kveim suspension in vivo we used immunohistological and histochemical methods to examine cryostat sections of immature Kveim biopsy specimens in subjects with sarcoidosis and normal controls. Changes seen at 48 hours, at which time papular reactions have sometimes been reported, are described. Eight cases of sarcoidosis previously confirmed by a positive Kveim test were studied, in five of whom the test remained positive; plus two subjects with sarcoidosis studied prospectively; and four healthy controls. There were two main features of the 48 hour response: collagen disruption with associated histiocytes, which showed increased acid phosphatase activity; and perivascular infiltrates of lymphocytes and small groups of dendritic cells. The T4:T8 ratios in the infiltrates were similar to those found in the peripheral blood of the subjects, and few lymphocytes showed evidence of activation. T lymphocytes were also seen free in the dermis and migrating to the epidermis. Small juxtacapillary clumps of dendritic cells, identified by NA1/34 (= OKT6; Langerhans' cells) and RFD1 (interdigitating cell) monoclonal antibodies, were found. The Langerhans' cells in the epidermis were, however, normal in number and distribution. These features, which were found in all groups, are not consistent with pre-existing hypersensitivity to Kveim suspension in sarcoidosis. Subsequent differences between sarcoid and normal subjects in the development of granulomas in the Kveim response may therefore relate to the different handling of the foreign material by the cells affected, rather than to differences in the early non-specific recruitment of the cells to the test site.
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