Whipple's disease

Lancet. 2003 Jan 18;361(9353):239-46. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12274-X.


Whipple's disease, or intestinal lipodystrophy, is a systemic infectious disorder affecting mostly middle-aged white men. Patients present with weight loss, arthralgia, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. The disease is commonly diagnosed by small-bowel biopsy; the appearance of the sample is characterised by inclusions in the lamina propria staining with periodic-acid-Schiff, which represent the causative bacteria. Tropheryma whipplei has been classified as an actinomycete and has been propagated in vitro, which allows the possibility of improving diagnostic strategies, for example through antibody-based detection of the bacillus on duodenal tissue or in circulating monocytes. Cell-mediated immunity in active and inactive Whipple's disease has subtle defects that might predispose some individuals to symptomatic infection with this bacillus, which probably occurs ubiquitously. Although most patients respond well to empirical antibiotic treatment, some with relapsing disease have a poor outlook. The recent findings and concerted research might allow development of new strategies for diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients with Whipple's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Whipple Disease* / diagnosis
  • Whipple Disease* / drug therapy
  • Whipple Disease* / physiopathology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents