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Minerva Medica 2002 December;93(6):447-52

language: Italian

Whipple's disease: progress in the diagnosis and review of the literature

Ghittoni G., Valentini G., Spada C., De Vitis I., Rossi Z., Gasbarrini G.


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Whipple's disease is a rare, chronic, multisystemic disease characterized by the presence of fever, diarrhea, weight loss and malabsorption, preceded by arthritis. Although Whipple's disease almost always includes involvement of the small intestine and the presence of malabsorption, it commonly affects other organs, especially the heart, brain, eyes and joints. Whipple's disease greately mimics other diseases and is caused by a cultivation-resistant bacterium. The disease is fatal unless patients are treated with antibiotics. The diagnosis of Whipple's disease can be made by histologic analysis of small-intestinal biopsy specimens. Identification of Whipple bacterium, Tropheryma whippelii, has led to the development of the polymerase chain reaction This technique can be used to detect the bacterium in many organs and fluids, including synovial tissue and fluid. Affected patients tend to have dilated intestinal villi that are infiltrated with foamy macrophages.

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