Background: Whipple's disease is a very rare disease needing a long-term treatment. The most frequent symptoms are recurrent arthralgia or arthritis, chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
Objectives: In this article, we have highlighted the main clinical features and diagnostic procedures that lead to the diagnosis and comment on the clinical response, treatment, and the factors of relapse.
Methods: Subjects were recruited from the Internal Medicine and Rheumatologic Departments of an University Hospital from November 1997 to January 2016. Overall, 12 subjects were finally diagnosed.
Results: Mean age was 54.3 years (age range: 30-81), with more male patients (58.3%). Almost all patients had articular symptoms and impaired general condition (91.7%); and a majority had digestive symptoms (75%). Regardless of the symptoms, the most efficient diagnostic tools were the PCR screening on the gastrointestinal biopsies and saliva (83.3 and 72.7% positive results, respectively). More than half of the patients relapsed (55.6%). The relapsing patients were older [63.2 (44-81)] and mostly male with a majority (60%) of digestive symptoms and a delayed diagnosis.
Conclusions: In current practice, it is highly difficult to diagnose Whipple's disease. In order to decrease the delay between the first symptoms and the diagnosis, effective tools such as saliva and stools PCR should be used because higher delays of diagnosis lead to a higher number of relapses.
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