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Leprosy (cont.)

Leprosy Causes

Leprosy is an acquired infectious disease that can affect individuals of all ages. It is caused by the acid-fast, rod-shaped bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, which was discovered in 1873 by G.A. Hansen.

  • Because the bacterium multiplies very slowly, the signs and symptoms of leprosy may not develop until much later after exposure to M. leprae (ranging from several weeks to 20 years or more).
  • Though humans are the major reservoir and host for infection with M. leprae, other animals such as armadillos, chimpanzees, and mangabey monkeys also serve as reservoirs of infection.
  • Leprosy is thought to be transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close prolonged contact with affected individuals, though the exact route of transmission has yet to be proven definitively.
  • Not all individuals infected with M. leprae will go on to develop leprosy, because only 5%-10% of the population is thought to be susceptible to the infection because of immunological reasons.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/19/2014
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