Infectious diseases clinic

Leprosy: a forgotten disease?

Alison Keed



Despite a dramatic fall in the worldwide prevalence of leprosy and the widespread availability of curative therapy, new cases continue to be reported in Aboriginal Australians and in migrants from countries where the disease remains endemic. Leprosy must not become a forgotten disease, as ongoing awareness among health professionals is essential to ensure early detection and effective drug therapy.

Article Extract

Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is a chronic granulomatous disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It primarily affects the skin and peripheral nerves but the eyes, testes, bones and upper respiratory tract may also be affected. A number of unique features of the disease present significant diagnostic and management challenges for clinicians. The spectrum of disease expression is wide and the incubation period is variable and potentially lengthy (five to 30 years). The duration of therapy is prolonged (six to 24 months) and there is potential for nerve damage at any stage of the disease. Leprosy remains a feared disease, and patients are often very concerned about social stigma and deformity.

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