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Lancet Infect Dis. 2008 Mar;8(3):179-90. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(08)70042-2.

Whipple's disease: new aspects of pathogenesis and treatment.

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Medical Department I, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany.


100 years after its first description by George H Whipple, the diagnosis and treatment of Whipple's disease is still a subject of controversy. Whipple's disease is a chronic multisystemic disease. The infection is very rare, although the causative bacterium, Tropheryma whipplei, is ubiquitously present in the environment. We review the epidemiology of Whipple's disease and the recent progress made in the understanding of its pathogenesis and the biology of its agent. The clinical features of Whipple's disease are non-specific and sensitive diagnostic methods such as PCR with sequencing of the amplification products and immunohistochemistry to detect T whipplei are still not widely distributed. The best course of treatment is not completely defined, especially in relapsing disease, neurological manifestations, and in cases of immunoreconstitution after initiation of antibiotic treatment. Patients without the classic symptoms of gastrointestinal disease might be misdiagnosed or insufficiently treated, resulting in a potentially fatal outcome or irreversible neurological damage. Thus, we suggest procedures for the improvement of diagnosis and an optimum therapeutic strategy.

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