Whipple's disease: a histological, immunocytochemical and electronmicroscopic study of the immune response in the small intestinal mucosa

Histopathology. 1992 Jul;21(1):1-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.1992.tb00337.x.


Whipple's disease is a multisystem disorder with protean manifestations and with poorly understood aetiopathogenesis. It is unclear how the immune system reacts, whether it functions normally or not, whether it protects the organism or is defeated in one way or another by the 'Whipple bacillus'. The purpose of our study was to assess humoral and cellular immunity at the level of the intestinal mucosa. This histochemical, immunocytochemical and electronmicroscopic study, based on 16 cases, has shown that the changes in components of the mucosal immune system in Whipple's disease are quite different from normal. The phagocytic capacity of the macrophages, assessed microscopically, is abnormal, the number of intra-epithelial lymphocytes is increased, the CD 4/CD 8 cell ratio is decreased and the IgM positive cells in the lamina propria outnumber the IgA positive cells. These changes may be inter-dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibody Formation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestine, Small / immunology
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Lymphocytes
  • Macrophages
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Middle Aged
  • Whipple Disease / immunology*
  • Whipple Disease / pathology*