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Open Access Highly Accessed Case report

Reversible hypothyroidism and Whipple's disease

Huy A Tran

Author Affiliations

Hunter Area Pathology Service, John Hunter Hospital, Locked Bag Number 1, Hunter Mail Region Centre, New South Wales, 2310, Australia

BMC Endocrine Disorders 2006, 6:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6823-6-3

Published: 10 May 2006

Abstract

Background

The major cause of primary hypothyroidism is autoimmune mediated with progressive and permanent destruction of the thyroid gland resulting in life-long replacement therapy. Treatable and reversible hypothyroidism is unusual and here forth is such a case due to infection of the thyroid gland with Tropheryma whippleii, Whipple disease.

Case presentation

A 45 year-old female presented with symptoms and signs consistent with primary hypothyroidism, which was also confirmed biochemically. Her response to thyroxine replacement therapy was poor however, requiring a significantly elevated amount. Further investigation revealed the presence of Whipple's disease involving the gastrointestinal trace and possibly the thyroid gland. Her thyroxine requirement decreased drastically following appropriate antimicrobial therapy for Whipple's disease to the extent that it was ceased. Thyrotropin releasing hormone testing in the steady state suggested there was diminished thyroid reserve due to Whipple's disease.

Conclusion

This is the first ante-mortem case report studying the possible involvement of the thyroid gland by Whipple's disease. Despite the normalization of her thyroid function test biochemically after antibiotic therapy, there is diminished thyroid reserve thus requiring close and regular monitoring.