Metabolic theories of Whipple disease


Whipple disease is a rare, infectious, disease first described from a single case by Whipple in 1907. As well as characterising the clinical and pathological features of the condition, Whipple made two suggestions regarding its aetiology. These were either than the disease was caused by an infectious agent, or that it was of metabolic origin. As the disease is now thought to be caused by infection with the bacterium Tropheryma whipplei, historical reviews of the history of the disease typically mention only the first of these suggestions. In this paper, we therefore revisit Whipple’s other theory. We argue that a diverse and often successful research programme was developed around this mechanism of disease causation which gave rise to many useful findings on the condition. In the later parts of this article, we then turn to discuss the surprising neglect of this period of Whipple disease research in the current literature, and conclude by offering a brief reconstruction of this early history suitable for use in a technical context.

Author Profiles

Thomas Hughes
New School for Social Research
Brendan Clarke
University College London


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