A bacteria called Tropheryma whipplei causes Whipple’s disease. This bacteria affects the digestive system and can spread to the: heart; lungs; brain; joints; skin and eyes. It is a relatively rare disease, but it can be life-threatening. It is widely believed that there is a genetic predisposition to developing the illness. Whipple’s disease also tends to be higher in places that lack of freshwater and proper sanitation.