Whipple disease revealed by lung involvement: a case report and literature review

Chest. 2012 Jun;141(6):1595-1598. doi: 10.1378/chest.11-1812.


We report the case of a man with a history of intermittent fever and arthritis who presented with a dry cough and associated lung involvement, who was eventually given the diagnosis of Whipple disease. The pulmonary symptoms preceded the development of GI manifestations. Five years later, periodic acid-Schiff (PAS)-positive macrophages were identified in duodenal biopsy specimens and polymerase chain reaction for Tropheryma whipplei was positive in the duodenum, stools, saliva, and cerebrospinal fluid. Pulmonary T whipplei was retrospectively confirmed by positive PAS staining and immunoreactivity to specific antibodies in endobronchial biopsy specimens. Antibiotic treatment was followed by remission. A literature review identified eight other cases of Whipple disease presenting with lung parenchymal involvement, predominantly interstitial lung disease (ILD), and without initial GI symptoms. In the absence of GI symptoms, a diagnosis of Whipple disease should be considered in middle-aged men presenting with ILD or lung nodules, if the patient has a history of unexplained arthralgia and/or fever. The association of mediastinal adenopathy or pleural effusion offers additional concern. Whipple disease may be fatal in the absence of treatment, but prolonged antibiotic treatment often leads to complete remission.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Lung Diseases / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Whipple Disease / diagnosis*
  • Whipple Disease / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents