Reversal of dementia associated with Whipple's disease by trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, drugs that penetrate the blood-brain barrier

R J Ryser, R M Locksley, S C Eng, W O Dobbins, F D Schoenknecht, C E Rubin
Gastroenterology 1984, 86 (4): 745-52
A previously healthy 67-yr-old man presented with progressive dementia over an 11-mo period. Evaluation revealed evidence of malabsorption. Jejunal biopsy established the diagnosis of Whipple's disease. No other etiology for the patient's dementia was uncovered. Treatment with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole resulted in rapid elimination of Whipple's bacilli from the jejunum and complete reversal of the patient's dementia over a 6-mo period. Significant levels of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole were easily quantitated in the cerebrospinal fluid during therapy. There is increasing recognition of progressive neurologic disease in patients with Whipple's disease who were treated with tetracycline. The reversal of presumed central nervous system disease in this case suggests that drugs that penetrate the blood-brain barrier might be preferable for the initial treatment of Whipple's disease.

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