Whipple disease is a systemic illness resulting from bacterial infection by a rare species of bacilli, Tropheryma whippleii. The gastrointestinal tract is the most frequently affected organ although the disease can spread to joints, central nervous system, eyes and rarely, heart. The disease is clinically presented with gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite), polyarthritis, fever and weight loss. Ataxia and memory disturbances may be present in cases when the central nervous system is affected. Whipple disease is a progressively fatal disease, but once diagnosed correctly and treated promptly, it is completely cured.
The clinical presentation of Whipple disease includes classical signs of arthralgia, polyarthritis, fever and gastrointestinal complains. The gastrointestinal disturbances are manifested later and include abdominal pain, diarrhea, malabsorption, anorexia and weight loss. Steatorrhea and gastrointestinal bleeding follow, when the infection spreads to small intestine. In cases when the disease is left untreated or not treated completely, the central nervous system becomes affected in the later stage. The CNS signs are demonstrated as dementia, ataxia, meningoencephalitis, myoclonus and tinnitus  . Other findings that may be present include lympadenopathy, increased skin pigmentation, splenomegaly, anemia, cough and hypotension. Rarely, the illness may affect the heart resulting in the development of congestive heart failure and pericarditis.
The most specific test for making an accurate diagnosis of Whipple disease is the determination of the presence of the bacterium Tropheryma whipplei DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) . Through this test, DNA of the bacteria is easily detected, but it is not available universally. In clinical settings, tissue biopsy of the affected organ along with identification of signs and symptoms specific to the disease, aid in making an appropriate diagnosis. Patients presenting with intestinal symptoms are diagnosed after tissue biopsy of the small instestine in which PAS positive macrophages with disrupted villi structure are observed under microscopic examination. Certain screening tests such as laboratory examination of stool, serum albumin, prothrombin time and serum carotene and imaging studies such as CT scan are helpful in determining the presence of malabsorption. A stereotactic brain biopsy is required in cases when the patients present with CNS signs.
Whipple disease, being a chronic infectious disease, requires prompt and aggressive antibiotic therapy and appropriate follow up tests to achieve complete remission and prevent relapse. The disease can be life threatening if not treated, but once treated correctly, the disease is cured completely. Treatment of Whipple disease requires long term antibiotic therapy up to 1 year because the disease tends to relapse on short courses.
Currently, the disease is initially treated with intravenous administration of ceftriaxone (2g once daily dosing) or intavenous administration of penicillin G (2-4 million units every 4 hours) for about 2-4 weeks. The regimen is followed by prolonged peroral administration of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (160/800mg every 12 hours) for one year. In cases when the patient is allergic to sulfa drugs, penicillin G may be substituted with penicillin V or ampicillin. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole may be alternatively replaced with oral administration of doxycyline (100mg every 12 hours) and hydroxychloroquine (200mg every 8 hours) if the patient is allergic to sulfamethoxalone or is resistant to the drug. Following treatment, most of the clinical signs of the disease are resolved within few days with eradication of intestinal symptoms in less than 4 weeks  .
In patients presenting with malabsorption, a supportive treatment with nutrition therapy is recommended to make up for the nutrient loss by the body. Typically, intravenous administration of fluids and electrolytes, supplementation with iron, folate, calcium and vitamin D and a diet rich in calories and protein are required.
Whipple disease can proceed to life threatening situations in patients who are incorrectly diagnosed or receive a poor treatment and if left untreated, the mortality rate approaches to 100% within a year after development of the infection   . Although potentially fatal, the disease can be cured completely and long lasting remission can be achieved with a good prognosis if correctly diagnosed on time and treated adequately with long term antibiotic therapy. Treatment of Whipple disease typically lasts for a year with eradication of extraintestinal symptoms within few days following treatment whereas symptoms related to gastrointestinal tract disturbances and malnutrition are resolved within two to three months of treatment. Relapses during and after treatment are common in Whipple disease and 30-40% patient may relapse after treatment. In cases when the disease is spread to the CNS, prompt and vigorous treatment with antibiotics is required over a long period of time in order to achieve clinical remission and to prevent relapse in future. It is advisable to monitor patient's response to treatment during therapy and tissue biopsy is recommended after a year following treatment to assure good prognosis and prevent disease recurrence.
Tropheryma whipplei, a rod-shaped bacterium belonging to Actinomyecetes order, is the causative organism of Whipple disease. The bacterium is typically found in soil and enters the host body through oral route.
The rod shaped structure of the bacterium was first identified in 1961, but it was not until 1991 when the bacterium was found to possess a unique structural appearance. It was recognized as the sole organism responsible for causing the infection. Once it enters the host cell, the infection develops when the bacterium causes the body to produce an abnormal host response to a frequently occuring microorganism  .
Since Whipple disease is an exceptionally rare systemic illness, not much is known about its epidemiology. To date, only small number of cases has been reported. The disease has mostly been diagnosed in middle-aged and elderly men belonging to North American and European countries with incidence estimation of less than 1 per 1,000,000  . Comparatively, the disease is more predominant in males with an approximate male to female ratio of 4:1.
The rod-shaped bacilli, after entering the body, invade various body tissues and incorporate into tissue macrophages which results in the disordered immune response. Once the lamina propria of the small bowel is infiltrated by the bacteria, the normal function of villi becomes disrupted which is clinically manifested as intestinal malabsorption. Although intestinal tissues are found to be invaded most often, other organs may also present with similar findings including peripheral and mesenteric lymph nodes.
When observed microscopically, the histopathological findings of tissue macrophages infiltered with T whipplei are to be positive on perdiodic acidSchiff (PAS) staining. The characteristic histopathological features with PAS-positive macrophages act a marker in establishing diagnosis of the disease following biopsy of the infected tissues .
Patients should be checked for response to antibiotic therapy during and after the treatment. It is advisable to conduct tissue biopsy of the affected organ 1 year after treatment to assure that T whipplei are no longer present. The disease may take up to two years to heal completely .
Whipple disease, formerly known as intestinal lipodystrophy, is an extremely rare infectious disease caused by the bacterium Tropheryma whippelii, developing predominantly in middle-aged Caucasian men above 40 years of age. The disease is systemic in nature and can affect any organ system, although, it usually involves the gastrointestinal tract, heart and central nervous system. The clinical manifestations typically involve abdominal pain, intestinal malabsorption, diarrhea, weight loss and arthralgia. Diagnosis is based on assessment of patient's signs and symptoms based on clinical examination, tissue biopsy, certain screening tests and in some cases, imaging studies. Treatment of Whipple disease involves long term antibiotic therapy, measurement of patient's response to treatment and follow up tests to assure that the infection is being eradicated completely and to prevent relapse in future.  .
Whipple disease is a rare illness resulting from bacterial infection by the organism Tropheryma whipplei. It is found in soil and people working with soil and sewage are prone to suffer from this disease. The disease is common in middle-aged white men above 30 years of age belonging to North American or European ethnic background. The organism Tropheryma whipplei damages internal linings of different organs of body such as intestine, joints, brain, eyes and heart. Common symptoms of the disease are abdominal pain, diarrhea, painful joints, weight loss and fever. Whipple disease is diagnosed by tissue biopsy of affected organs in which the bacteria are observed under microscope. The disease is serious and progressively fatal if left untreated or not treated correctly. If treated promptly, it is completely cured. Treatment requires administration of antibiotic injections of ceftriaxone or penicillin initially and later the antibiotic trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazolne taken by mouth for 1 year. Most of the symptoms of the disease are subsided within few weeks of antibiotic treatment. The treatment also requires administration of vitamins, minerals, iron and fluids because of the presence of malabsorption. Patients are advised to schedule routine follow-ups with their doctor during and after treatment as the disease can relapse after treatment. Those patients who follow treatment regimen completely and go for regular follow-ups, tend to have good outcomes.