Isolated CNS Whipple disease with normal brain MRI and false-positive CSF 14-3-3 protein: a case report and review of the literature


  • This work was supported by the Veterans Affairs National Quality Scholars Program (V. W. S.).


Victor W. Sung, Department of Neurology, Division of Movement Disorders, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sparks Center 360C, 1720 7th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294. Tel: 205-934-0683; Fax: 205-996-4039; E-mail:


Whipple disease (WD) is usually a systemic infectious disease that can have central nervous system (CNS) involvement. WD confined to the CNS is extremely rare and difficult to diagnose, but can be fatal if not treated in a timely fashion. We present the case of a 42-year-old man with a subacute dementia accompanied by a movement disorder consisting of progressive supranuclear gaze palsy, myoclonus, and ataxia. Our patient lacked the typical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings reported with isolated CNS WD and had a false-positive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) 14-3-3 protein. The patient expired, and definitive diagnosis of isolated CNS WD was made by autopsy with characteristic macrophage accumulations found in the brain but not in the gastrointestinal tract. We examine the literature on isolated CNS WD and discuss how these previously unreported findings make a rare diagnosis even more challenging. The reported patient is the first in the literature with tissue diagnosis of isolated CNS WD in the setting of normal brain MRI and positive CSF 14-3-3 protein. Isolated CNS WD should be added to the list of considerations for a false-positive CSF 14-3-3 protein. Even in the absence of typical MRI lesions, a patient with subacute progressive dementia, supranuclear gaze palsy, and other various neurologic abnormalities should have the diagnosis of isolated CNS WD considered.