Alternate Names : Hansen's Disease
Leprosy is a chronic infection involving nerves and the skin. It
is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.
What is going on in the body?
Leprosy occurs when the Mycobacterium leprae
bacteria attacks tissues in the person's body. There are three forms of
lepromatous, the most serious type, which damages the upper
respiratory tract, eyes, testes, nerves, and skin
tuberculoid, which affects peripheral nerves and, sometimes, the
surrounding skin, especially on the face, arms, legs, and buttocks
borderline, which has characteristics of both lepromatous and
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. It is
spread through contact with nasal secretions from an untreated, infected
person. Close contact over a period of time is needed to transmit leprosy. It
is not highly contagious, but it can also be transmitted through skin breaks, such
as one made with a contaminated needle.
Children are more susceptible than adults to contracting leprosy. Nine out of
10 people may have a natural immunity to the disease. Leprosy is most prevalent
in underdeveloped regions, especially China and India. Worldwide,
approximately 11 million people have the disease.