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Fifty-five years ago, G. H. Whipple1 described the features of the unusual gastrointestinal disorder which now bears his name. His classical morphological description of the lesions encountered in the gastrointestinal tract and mesenteric lymph nodes characterized by conspicuous lipid-laden microcysts suggested, to him as well as many subsequent observers, that the disease might represent an intestinal form of lipodystrophy. Little significant information in this regard was provided until 1949, when Black-Schaffer2 noted that the histiocytes present within the lesions (also noted by Whipple) possessed a mucopolysaccharide moiety in their cytoplasm which was vividly demonstrated by the then recently described periodic acid-Schiff histochemical procedure.
This finding provoked speculation that Whipple's disease might be related to an alteration of intestinal mucin (also periodic acid-Schiff positive), that it might be due to a change in intestinal ground substance, or that the material was present in the circulation and was subsequently phagocytized
WHIPPLE'S DISEASE. JAMA. 1962;181(5):434–435. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050310074014
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