Whipple's disease is a rare infectious disease, which is caused by a bacterium known as Tropheryma Whipplei. The majority of affected are men and the disease occurs in about one person in a million (per one year).
The disease is caused by infection with the above-mentioned bacterium, but there is also an important genetic role in its development. People get apparently infected from contaminated soil or water as the majority of infected were working in agriculture. However, the exact mechanism of transmission is not yet fully known.
The disease manifests by intestinal and extraintestinal troubles. Bowel symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss and diarrhea, which may be associated with malabsorption of nutrients. The extraintestinal symptoms are joint pain, muscle pain, long-term elevated temperature and night sweats. Many patients suffered from neurological disorders such as dementia, eye movement disorders and memory disorders.
Based on the extremely rare occurrence of the disease, it is certainly very difficult to determine the correct diagnosis. The essential diagnostic method is upper GI endoscopy with taking samples of duodenal mucosa. These samples can be examined under a microscope and when using special staining, the bacteria can be found.
If the diagnosis is confirmed, the therapeutic approach consists mainly of administration of various antibiotics for a very long time. In addition, the patient should receive sufficient diet with missing nutrients.