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BMC Infect Dis. 2011 Jun 15;11:171. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-11-171.

Progressive dementia associated with ataxia or obesity in patients with Tropheryma whipplei encephalitis.

Author information

1
Unité des rickettsies, URMITE CNRS-IRD UMR 6236, IFR 48, Faculté de médecine, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Tropheryma whipplei, the agent of Whipple's disease, causes localised infections in the absence of histological digestive involvement. Our objective is to describe T. whipplei encephalitis.

METHODS:

We first diagnosed a patient presenting dementia and obesity whose brain biopsy and cerebrospinal fluid specimens contained T. whipplei DNA and who responded dramatically to antibiotic treatment. We subsequently tested cerebrospinal fluid specimens and brain biopsies sent to our laboratory using T. whipplei PCR assays. PAS-staining and T. whipplei immunohistochemistry were also performed on brain biopsies. Analysis was conducted for 824 cerebrospinal fluid specimens and 16 brain biopsies.

RESULTS:

We diagnosed seven patients with T. whipplei encephalitis who demonstrated no digestive involvement. Detailed clinical histories were available for 5 of them. Regular PCR that targeted a monocopy sequence, PAS-staining and immunohistochemistry were negative; however, several highly sensitive and specific PCR assays targeting a repeated sequence were positive. Cognitive impairments and ataxia were the most common neurologic manifestations. Weight gain was paradoxically observed for 2 patients. The patients' responses to the antibiotic treatment were dramatic and included weight loss in the obese patients.

CONCLUSIONS:

We describe a new clinical condition in patients with dementia and obesity or ataxia linked to T. whipplei that may be cured with antibiotics.

PMID:
21676235
PMCID:
PMC3141410
DOI:
10.1186/1471-2334-11-171
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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