Culture of Tropheryma whipplei from human samples: a 3-year experience (1999 to 2002)

Florence Fenollar, Marie-Laure Birg, Valérie Gauduchon, Didier Raoult
Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2003, 41 (8): 3816-22
The culture of Tropheryma whipplei, the bacterium responsible for Whipple's disease, has been established only recently. Our objective is to describe, based on our experience, the culture of T. whipplei in HEL cells detected by immunofluorescence staining. Over 3 years, we received 18 samples for T. whipplei culture from 15 patients with Whipple's disease. Ten duodenal biopsy specimens from 10 patients with digestive symptoms were available. Five cardiac valves and three blood samples from five patients with endocarditis were also available. We correlated the results of culture with the type of sample and the culture procedure. Seven isolates were obtained, and three were subsequently established for more than 4 passages. The mean delay for the primary detection was 30 days. The bacterium was isolated more frequently from sterile specimens (5 of 8) than from duodenal biopsy specimens (2 of 10), but the difference (P = 0.14) was not significant. Decontamination of digestive samples containing colistin, amphotericin B, and cephalotin or ciprofloxacin did not impair the isolation of T. whipplei. The use of vancomycin precludes the primary isolation (7 of 12 versus 0 of 6; P = 0.08) and the establishment of T. whipplei (3 of 12 versus 0 of 6; P = 0.5). Omitting samples cultured with vancomycin, the establishment of the strain was significantly higher when antibiotics were prescribed for no more than 7 days (3 of 4 versus 0 of 8; P = 0.03). Our results demonstrate that samples must be collected within 1 week of an antibiotic regimen's initiation for the successful establishment of the bacterium.

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