Whipple’s disease is a serious bacterial infection that affects multiple systems in the body. It is an extremely rare condition that has more commonly affected middle-aged white males. Certain people may be genetically susceptible to the disease. Patients report symptoms of diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, and pain in joints. The condition is named after George Whipple, who described a patient with this condition as early as 1907.
Whipple’s disease is caused as a reaction to an infection with a bacterium called Tropheryma whippelii.
The predominant symptoms of Whipple’s disease are due to the involvement of the digestive tract and the subsequent malabsorption of nutrients. Other systems like the joints and the brain are also commonly involved.
The reverse transcriptase PCR test, done on biopsy samples of affected tissues, helps in the definitive diagnosis of the condition.
Antibiotics like trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole are effective in the treatment of Whipple’s disease, to which a dramatic response is often observed. Treatment has to be continued over prolonged durations.