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Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) 

Leprosy (Hansen’s disease)
Chapter:
Leprosy (Hansen’s disease)
Author(s):

Diana N.J. Lockwood

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0132
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date: 25 February 2021

Leprosy is a chronic granulomatous disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast intracellular organism not yet cultivated in vitro. It is an important public health problem worldwide, with an estimated 4 million people disabled by the disease. Transmission of M. leprae is only partially understood, but untreated lepromatous patients discharge abundant organisms from their nasal mucosa into the environment. It was first identified in the nodules of patients with lepromatous leprosy by Hansen in 1873. M. leprae preferentially parasitizes skin macrophages and peripheral nerve Schwann cells. A second agent of leprosy M. lepromatosis which diverged form M. leprae 10 million years ago has also been recognized as causing leprosy in 40 + patients and the main focus of origin is Mexico. The importance of this organism will be determined over the next few years.

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