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A Journal on Gastroenterology, Nutrition and Dietetics

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Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2000 June;46(2):105-12

language: English, Italian

Whipple's disease. Description of a case and survey of the literature

Caserta I., Esposito P., Russo F., Cerbone D., Del Prete A., Montanaro F., Russo I.


A case of Whipple's disease (WD) personally observed is described. A 28-year-old male was admitted to hospital for evaluation of weakness, intermittent fever and weight loss arisen since a month. On clinical investigation, he complained of vomit and diarrhea since three months. He had neither familial and personal past history of gastrointestinal diseases, nor any other important diseases. He denied use of drugs. Physical examination was negative. Laboratory findings showed anemia, low blood lymphocytes, low serum iron and total iron binding capacity, low total serum protein and low serum albumin and high level of ESR. Stool were negative for parasites and occult blood. Cultures of blood and urine were negative. Stool fat assay was > 7g/24 h and D-xylose test showed a two-hour serum concentration < 25 mg/dl. Abdominal TC showed lumbo-aortic and mesenteric enlarged lymph nodes. An upper video endoscopy showed a duodenal lymphangectasia. Histological examination showed villar atrophy with massive infiltration of large PAS-positive diastase-resistant foamy cells. Ziehl-Nielsen staining was negative. WD was diagnosed and patient underwent therapy based on cotrimoxazole. This report emphasizes the difficulty to diagnose WD correctly, because of its rareness and clinical polymorphism. Recently, studies have identified a bacillus, Tropheryma whippelii, associated with WD, so that, in the next future, the diagnosis of WD will be faster and more accurate. Finally, it is important to administer antibiotics which can cross the blood brain barrier for at least one year, in order to prevent neurological relapse, often lethal.

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