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J Infect Dis. 2004 Sep 1;190(5):935-45. Epub 2004 Jul 27.

Cardiac valves in patients with Whipple endocarditis: microbiological, molecular, quantitative histologic, and immunohistochemical studies of 5 patients.

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Unite des Rickettsies, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Unite de Mixte de Recherche 6020, Institut Federatif Recherche 48, Faculte de Medecine, Universite de la Mediterranee, Marseille, France.


The pathological features of Whipple endocarditis, which is caused by Tropheryma whipplei, were histologically evaluated in cardiac valves from 5 patients. We used quantitative image analysis to compare the valvular fibrosis, calcifications, vegetations, inflammation, and vascularization due to Whipple endocarditis with those due to non-Whipple endocarditis and degenerative valves. We also studied the presence of T. whipplei in valves by immunohistochemical analysis, culture, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In histologic analysis, Whipple endocarditis was characterized by significant fibrosis, a lack of calcifications, slight inflammation and vascularization, and vegetations of intermediate size. Inflammatory infiltrates consisted mainly of foamy macrophages and lymphocytes. We found that the detection of T. whipplei in cardiac valves, by immunohistochemical analysis, was correlated with the detection of the bacterium by culture and PCR. We report, for the first time, the immunodetection of T. whipplei in a surgically removed arterial embolus. Pathological and immunohistologic analyses may contribute to the diagnosis of Whipple endocarditis.

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