Armadillos may transmit leprosy

Armadillos may transmit leprosy

It has been long suspected, and more or less recently confirmed, that animals (particularly those that were domesticated thousands of years ago) are the source of many major human diseases, including diseases that ironically are no longer found in animals. See, for example, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v447/n7142/full/nature05775.html. Now Armadillos, at least in the South, have been identified as a reservoir for leprosy (aka Hansen's disease), a bacterial disease which is eminently treatable with antibiotics (though the course of antibiotics takes a year to complete).

Research has shown that people infected with leprosy in the United States often have the same previously unknown strain of the microbe Mycobacterium leprae that is also carried by armadillos. The discovery of the overlapping strain strengthens the long-held assumption that armadillos can infect people directly. Researchers have also found that many infected people in the Deep South contracted leprosy while close to home, not in some exotic locale where the disease is more common. In such circumstances, the only possible (known) reservoirs of infectious agents are people and armadillos. Some of those infected had even handled armadillos, the only animal known to harbor leprosy. The findings thus point to animal-to-person spread.

The research report can be found at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1010536.