Mycobacterium Leprae Leprosy

Hansen's Disease

What is Leprosy?

Leprosy, also know as Hansens Disease, is a infection that affects the skin and peripheral nerves, but it also has a very high clinical manifestation. It is classified as paucibacillary or, depending on the bacillary load, multibacillary. This disease is a milder disease that causes anesthetic skin lesions, thickened dermis or skin infiltration, and sometimes can result in nasal congestion and epitasis. Leprosy is also a leading cause of permanent physical disability. It is said that both leprosy and tuberculosis have seriously plagued mankind for centuries.


Leprosy is a chronic infection caused by the acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. Mycrobacteria is gram-positive aerobes or facultative anaerobes. N-acetylglycosaminyl, N-acetylmuramic asid disaccharide units is what the glycan strands of the cell wall peptidoglycan are essentially composed of. The structure of this cell is also very similar to that of the wall peptidoglycan found in the related microorganisms of the Corynebacterium and Nocaria groups.

How is Leprosy passed on?

What I found out while researching Leprosy is that scientist are not 100% sure on how it is passed but they do know that it is not hereditary and cannot be passed on by touch. They do believe that it may be caused by things such as moisture droplets passing through the air, but only from someone who has not yet started treatment for it. It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years before symptoms of the disease appears.

Symptoms of Leprosy

 Patches of skin that look paler than normal, also known as skin lessions, is the first symptom. The person may also discover nodules (red bumps) on the skin, macules (skin blemishes) or even plaques (scaly patches) on the skin. Other symptoms can include hypopigmentation (lighter skin color), hair loss, and different textures of the skin. Although, these symptoms are commonly confused with dermatitis (skin allergies), ringworm, leighmaniasis, syphilis, or even psoriasis. The biggest feature in leprosy is associated lesions is anesthesia in the center of the patches. Leprosy can be cured but some complications are limb damage resulting in "clawing" of the hands or the feet, and inability to close your eyes.


There were almost 182,000 people affected at the beginning of 2012, and about 219,000 new cases reported during 2011. In 9 of the Philippines' provinces and 10 cities there was another outbreak in 2012. The rate of new cases involving "grade 2 deformities" had doubled between 2005 and 2010, reported Dr. Teodoro Herbosa of the Department of Health. In 2010, there were 228,474 new cases reported in 130 countries, with more then half of them occurring in South-East Asia. This disease is most often seen during 2 different periods of life, between the ages of 10 and 14 and between those of the age 35 and 44. Off to the left is a graph showing new cases of Leprosy from the year 1999 till the year 2009.

Where is Leprosy most commonly and least commonly found?

This disease is most common in warm, wet areas in the tropics and subtropics. 80% of the cases are found in: India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Brazil, and Nigeria. New Zealand come across cases from Samoa, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands.

Vaccination against Leprosy

Generally there is no vaccine available to specifically prevent Leprosy, although the vaccine against TB (Tuberculosis), may provide SOME protection against Leprosy. Due to the fact that the organism that causes Leprosy is closely related to that of TB. However, the disease is curable through multi-drug therapy.


Dapsone, the primary drug indicated for the treatment of Leprosy is almost always accompanied by one or more other drugs; such as Rifampin and Clofazimine. All three of the drugs are taken orally and recommended for 6 months for Paucibacillary Leprosy and 2 years for Multibacillary Leprosy. If the disease is caught early then the treatment has an even higher chance of working.