Myocarditis in Whipple's disease: an unsuspected cause of symptoms and sudden death.
Whipple's disease (WD) is an uncommonly diagnosed infection caused by the recently characterized bacillus, Tropheryma whippelii. The association of WD with pericarditis and endocarditis is widely recognized, although less attention has been paid to the myocardium as a site of disease. Although the disease was uniformly fatal before antibiotic therapy, current treatment usually results in cure. We report two patients whose deaths were directly related to cardiac involvement by WD and whose underlying disease escaped diagnosis for years. The first, a 60-year-old white woman, suffered a cardiovascular collapse, and lymphocytic myocarditis was demonstrated at autopsy. The second, a 48-year-old black man, had a lengthy history of progressive cardiac failure that terminated in arrhythmia. Extensive myocardial fibrosis, with lymphocytic and granulomatous inflammation, was demonstrated at autopsy. The presence of T. whippelii was confirmed by electron microscopic examination in both cases and by polymerase chain reaction in one. Patients with WD might harbor an undiagnosed lymphocytic or granulomatous myocarditis, and this diagnosis should be considered in the evaluation of cardiac failure.
Mooney, EE; Kenan, DJ; Sweeney, EC; Gaede, JT
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