Whipple's disease is a rare infectious disease that typically infects the bowel. It causes malabsorption primarily but may affect any part of the body including the heart, lungs, brain, joints, and eyes. It interferes with the body's ability to absorb certain nutrients. Whipple's disease causes weight loss, incomplete breakdown of carbohydrates or fats, and malfunctions of the immune system. When recognized and treated, Whipple's disease can usually be cured. Untreated, the disease may be fatal.
Whipple's disease is caused by bacteria named Tropheryma whippelii. It can affect any system of the body, but occurs most often in the small intestine. Lesions appear on the wall of the small intestine and thicken the tissue. The villi - tiny, finger-like protrusions from the wall that help absorb nutrients - are damaged.