Whipple's disease history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sadaf Sharfaei M.D.[2]; Bhagyashree Deshmankar M.B.B.S.[3]


Patients with Whipple's disease have various presentations. Most common symptoms of the classic Whipple's disease include joint pain, weight loss, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Other organ systems can be involved in Whipple's disease including central nervous system, cardiac system, renal system, skeletal, muscles and pulmonary system.

History and Symptoms


Obtaining history is important to find risk factors for the Whipple's disease. Other differentials specifically those which cause malabsorption must be ruled out. Specific areas of focus when obtaining the history, are outlined below:[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

  • Onset, duration and progression of symptoms
  • History of consuming contaminated water or vegetables
  • History of access to proper sanitation and toilets
  • History of living in shelters
  • History of similar symptoms in a family
  • Medical history of immunosuppression therapy
  • History of HIV infection

Common Symptoms

Whipple's disease is a systemic disease that involves multiple organs. Many of the patients present with gastrointestinal symptoms, while others presents with localized involvement of different organs.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Non specific symptoms

Gastrointestinal system

Articular system

Less Common Symptoms

Central nervous system symptoms

Ocular symptoms

Ocular involvement is rare and is often seen in patients with CNS disease. It can involve:

Skeletal muscle symptoms

Cardiopulmonary symptoms

Cutaneous symptoms

  • Skin color changes
  • Yellowish discoloration of the skin

Renal symptoms

  • Renal involvement is late in course, may be seen rarely.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dutly F, Altwegg M (2001). "Whipple's disease and "Tropheryma whippelii"". Clin Microbiol Rev. 14 (3): 561–83. doi:10.1128/CMR.14.3.561-583.2001. PMC 88990. PMID 11432814.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fenollar F, Puéchal X, Raoult D (2007). "Whipple's disease". N Engl J Med. 356 (1): 55–66. doi:10.1056/NEJMra062477. PMID 17202456.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Schneider T, Moos V, Loddenkemper C, Marth T, Fenollar F, Raoult D (2008). "Whipple's disease: new aspects of pathogenesis and treatment". Lancet Infect Dis. 8 (3): 179–90. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(08)70042-2. PMID 18291339.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Marth, Thomas; Moos, Verena; Müller, Christian; Biagi, Federico; Schneider, Thomas (2016). "Tropheryma whipplei infection and Whipple's disease". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 16 (3): e13–e22. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00537-X. ISSN 1473-3099.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Schoniger-Hekele, M.; Petermann, D.; Weber, B.; Muller, C. (2007). "Tropheryma whipplei in the Environment: Survey of Sewage Plant Influxes and Sewage Plant Workers". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 73 (6): 2033–2035. doi:10.1128/AEM.02335-06. ISSN 0099-2240.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bureš, Jan; Kopáčová, Marcela; Douda, Tomáš; Bártová, Jolana; Tomš, Jan; Rejchrt, Stanislav; Tachecí, Ilja (2013). "Whipple's Disease: Our Own Experience and Review of the Literature". Gastroenterology Research and Practice. 2013: 1–10. doi:10.1155/2013/478349. ISSN 1687-6121.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dutly, F.; Altwegg, M. (2001). "Whipple's Disease and "Tropheryma whippelii"". Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 14 (3): 561–583. doi:10.1128/CMR.14.3.561-583.2001. ISSN 0893-8512.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Dolmans, Ruben A. V.; Boel, C. H. Edwin; Lacle, Miangela M.; Kusters, Johannes G. (2017). "Clinical Manifestations, Treatment, and Diagnosis of Tropheryma whipplei Infections". Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 30 (2): 529–555. doi:10.1128/CMR.00033-16. ISSN 0893-8512.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Conly JM, Johnston BL (2001). "Rare but not so rare: The evolving spectrum of Whipple's disease". Can J Infect Dis. 12 (3): 133–5. PMC 2094813. PMID 18159328.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Fenollar, Florence; Lagier, Jean-Christophe; Raoult, Didier (2014). "Tropheryma whipplei and Whipple's disease". Journal of Infection. 69 (2): 103–112. doi:10.1016/j.jinf.2014.05.008. ISSN 0163-4453.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Keita, Alpha Kabinet; Brouqui, Philippe; Badiaga, Sékéné; Benkouiten, Samir; Ratmanov, Pavel; Raoult, Didier; Fenollar, Florence (2013). "Tropheryma whipplei prevalence strongly suggests human transmission in homeless shelters". International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 17 (1): e67–e68. doi:10.1016/j.ijid.2012.05.1033. ISSN 1201-9712.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Schwartzman, Sergio; Schwartzman, Monica (2013). "Whipple's Disease". Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America. 39 (2): 313–321. doi:10.1016/j.rdc.2013.03.005. ISSN 0889-857X.

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