Background: The chronic granulomatous inflammation of sarcoidosis has been hypothesized to depend on the CD4+ T-helper lymphocyte. HIV infection, which depletes these cells, has been reported to attenuate the manifestations of sarcoidosis.
Study objectives: We asked whether the development of symptomatic sarcoidosis in the context of preexisting HIV infection was dependent on the CD4+ lymphocyte count.
Design: We performed a retrospective standardized chart review of all patients who developed granulomatous inflammation following HIV infection at an urban academic referral center.
Measurements: We identified seven patients with sarcoidosis within this cohort and compared their CD4+ lymphocyte count to that in a cohort of 16 patients in whom similar granulomatous inflammation was found but who did not have sarcoidosis. We then compared our cases to all reported cases using a systematic literature review.
Results: The CD4+ lymphocyte count was > 200 cells/μL in all of our patients with HIV infection when they developed subsequent sarcoidosis. In contrast, specific etiologies for granulomatous inflammation were found in all 10 HIV-infected patients who presented with granulomatous inflammation and a CD4+ lymphocyte count of < 200 cells/μL, with infectious etiologies found in 8 patients. Similarly, there was relative preservation of the CD4+ lymphocyte count in previously reported cases, with 14 of 19 patients (74%) having an absolute CD4+ lymphocyte count of > 200 cells/μL.
Conclusions: We conclude that the development of the chronic granulomatous inflammation of sarcoidosis appears to depend on the preservation or restoration of the peripheral CD4+ lymphocyte count and that in most cases the CD4+ lymphocyte count exceeds 200 cells/μL. Furthermore, alternative specific etiologies of granulomatous inflammation are generally identifiable in HIV-infected patients with peripheral CD4+ lymphocyte counts of < 200 cells/μL.