What causes leprosy and is there a cure?

Medical science tells that leprosy is caused due to slow-growing types of bacteria. And don’t worry because it is curable! In this article, we will know the questions answer what causes leprosy and are there a cure?

What is leprosy?

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease which is caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It is also known as Hansen’s disease. The skin, mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, peripheral nerves, and eyes are severely affected.

Leprosy is known to occur at any age, from infants to the elderly. Leprosy can be cured, and early treatment will prevent the disease.

Leprosy causes nerve damage, skin ulcers, and weakness. If left untreated, it can lead to severe disability and serious disability.

In recorded history leprosy is one of the oldest diseases. The first known written record of leprosy dates back to around 600 BC.

Especially in tropical or subtropical climates leprosy is common but it can be found in many countries.

This is not common in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the United States only 150 to 250 new cases are diagnosed each year.

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What causes leprosy and is there a cure?

What is the meaning of Leprosy?

According to Merriam webmaster leprosy means, “A chronic infectious disease caused by mycobacterium (Mycobacterium leprae) that particularly affects the skin and peripheral nerves.

It is characterized by the formation of nodules or plaques, accompanied by sensory loss and eventual paralysis, muscle atrophy, and deformities.”

What are the symptoms of leprosy?

Symptoms of leprosy mainly affect the nerves, skin, and mucous membranes (soft, moist areas inside the body’s openings).

This disease causes skin symptoms such as:

  1. Growths (nodules) on the skin
  2. Discolored, usually flat patches of skin that may be numb and look discolored
  3. Thick, stiff, or thick Dry skin
  4. Painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes
  5.  Soles of the feet
  6. Loss of eyebrows or eyelashes.

Nerve damage can cause symptoms such as:

  1. Numbness in the affected skin area
  2. Muscle weakness or paralysis
  3. Nerve expansion
  4. Eye problems that can lead to blindness (when the facial nerve is affected)

Symptoms caused by mucosal diseases include:

  1. Nasal congestion
  2. Nasal bleeding.

Leprosy can affect the nerves. There will be sensation or loss of sensation. When a sensory loss occurs, injuries such as burns may go unnoticed.

Because you may not feel the pain that can warn you of damage to your body, take extra care to ensure that the affected part of your body is not injured.

If left untreated, signs of advanced leprosy may include:

  1. Numbness and disability of hands and feet
  2. Loss of eyebrows
  3. Shortening of fingers and toes due to absorption
  4. Blindness
  5. Chronic ulcers on the soles of the feet that do not heal

Other complications that can sometimes occur with nose deformities there are:

  1. Painful or tender nerves
  2. Redness and pain around the affected area
  3. Burning sensation in the skin
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What causes leprosy and is there a cure?

How does one get leprosy?

It is not clear how leprosy does one gets from person to person. Scientists currently believed that this happens when a patient with leprosy sneezes or coughs while a healthy person inhales droplets containing bacteria.

To contract this disease, you need to have close and long-term contact with untreated leprosy patients for several months. Regular contact with leprosy patient will not be infected with leprosy, such as:

  1. Sitting together for a meal.
  2. Sitting side by side on the bus.
  3. Shaking hands.

This disease will not be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Nor is it spread through sexual contact. Because bacteria grow slowly and it takes time for signs of disease to appear, it is often difficult to find the source of infection.

In the southern United States, some armadillos are naturally infected with the bacteria that cause Hansen’s disease in humans and may be transmitted to humans. However, the risk is very low. Most of the people who come into contact with armadillos are unlikely to develop Hansen’s disease.

For general health reasons, please avoid contact with armadillos as much as possible. If you have been in contact with armadillos and are concerned about Hansen’s disease, please consult your healthcare provider.

Your doctor will follow up with you over time and perform regular skin examinations to see if you have this disease. In case you have Hansen’s disease, your doctor can help you receive treatment.

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What causes leprosy and is there a cure?

What causes leprosy?

Leprosy is mainly caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which is a slow-growing rod-shaped bacterium and an obligate intracellular bacteria (it only grows in certain human and animal cells).

M. leprae is called “acid-fast” bacteria because of its chemical properties. When medical professionals use special dyes for microscopic analysis, they will stain red on a blue background due to the mycolic acid content in its cell wall. Ziehl-Neelsen staining is an example of a special staining technique used to observe acid-fast organisms under a microscope.

Currently, organisms cannot grow on artificial media. It takes a long time for bacteria to multiply inside the cell (about 12-14 days, while most bacteria need minutes or hours). Bacteria grow best at 80.9 F-86 F, so colder areas of the body are prone to infection.

Bacteria grow very well on macrophages and Schwann cells in the body. M. leprae is genetically related to M. leprae. Tuberculosis and other mycobacteria that infect humans.

They are diseases related to leprosy. Like malaria, patients with leprosy produce anti-endothelial antibodies, but the role of these antibodies in these diseases is still being studied.

In 2009, researchers discovered a new mycobacterium, M. lepromatosis, which causes diffuse disease. Considered to be one of the tropical diseases, this new species has appeared in patients located in Mexico and the Caribbean Islands.

Is leprosy spread by touch?

Leprosy cannot be spread through touch, because mycobacteria cannot penetrate intact skin. Living near leprosy patients will increase transmission. Among household contacts, the relative risk of leprosy increases 8 to 10 times in the multi-bacterial form and 2 to 4 times in the less bacillus form. There are animal reservoirs (armadillos, certain non-human primates), and suspected zoonotic transmission cases have been reported.

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What causes leprosy and is there a cure?

Where is leprosy found today?

The countries with the largest number of newly diagnosed leprosy cases each year are India, Brazil, and Indonesia. More than half of new leprosy cases are diagnosed in India.

What causes leprosy and is there a cure
Source: Statista

In 2018, 120,334 new leprosy cases were found there, accounting for 57%; in 2018, 15 countries reported more than 1,000 new leprosy cases.

These countries are Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Somalia, and Tanzania.

What causes leprosy and is there a cure
Source: Knoema

Can leprosy be cured completely?

Through early diagnosis and treatment, leprosy can be cured completely. Since 1982, leprosy has been cured using multi-drug therapy, which is a combination of 3 (three) drugs that fight the bacteria of leprosy.

Patients with leprosy usually take multi-drug therapy (MDT) for 6-12 months after diagnosis, depending on the type of leprosy they have. It is provided free of charge by the World Health Organization and donated by Novartis.

Leprosy patients can continue their work and lead an active life during and after treatment for leprosy. One time leprosy was considered a very destructive and contagious disease, but now scientists tell us that it is not easy to spread and the treatment is very efficacious.

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What causes leprosy and is there a cure?

What are the treatment guidelines for leprosy?

Antibiotics treat most cases of leprosy. The recommended antibiotics, their dosage, and time of administration are based on the form or classification of the disease and whether the patient is under medical supervision.

Generally speaking, two antibiotics (dapsone and rifampicin) can treat oligobacterial leprosy, while polybacterial leprosy is treated with the same two antibiotics and the third antibiotic clofazimine.

Antibiotics are usually given by medical professionals for at least 6 to 12 months or longer to cure the disease. Antibiotics can treat oligobacterial leprosy with little or no residual effects on patients.

It can prevent the development of multi-bacterial leprosy and M. Leprosy can basically be eliminated from a person with antibiotics, but the damage caused before antibiotics is usually irreversible.

Recently, the WHO recommends that a single dose of rifampicin, minocycline (Minocin), or ofloxacin (Floxin) is effective in the treatment of patients with single skin lesions.

Research on other antibiotics is ongoing. According to the above criteria, each patient has his own personal treatment plan, so a doctor who understands the patient’s initial diagnosis category must plan the patient’s treatment plan.

Medical professionals use steroid drugs to reduce the pain and acute inflammation of leprosy; however, controlled trials have not shown a significant long-term effect on nerve damage.

The role of surgery in the treatment of leprosy occurs after the patient has completed medical treatment (antibiotics) and the skin smear is negative (acid-fast bacilli are not detected), and is usually only needed in advanced cases.

Medical professionals perform personalized surgery for each patient, the purpose is to try to improve the cosmetic effect and, if possible, restore the limb function and some nerve functions lost due to the disease.

Special clinics operated by the National Hansen’s Disease Program may treat some people in the United States. As with many diseases, the non-specialized literature contains home remedies.

For example, so-called home remedies include pastes made from the neem plant Hydrocotyle (also known as Cantella Asiatica) and even aromatherapy.

Before using these methods, patients should discuss any home remedies with their doctor; there is usually little scientific information to support these treatment claims.

Leprosy can be treated by which antibiotics?

Leprosy can be treated by following antibiotics. Let’s go for the antibiotics which are used for leprosy.


The mechanism of bactericidal and bacteriostatic action against mycobacteria is similar to that of sulfonamides, and competing PABA antagonists prevent the formation of folic acid and inhibit bacterial growth. paucibacillary (6 months) and multibacillary (12 months) are part of a three-drug regimen used to treat leprosy.


Used with one or more other anti-TB drugs. It inhibits DNA-dependent bacteria, but not mammalian RNA polymerase. Most bactericidal against Mycobacterium leprae. Cross-resistance may occur.

After changing to culture-negative, treat for 6-9 months or up to 6 months. This is part of a two-drug regimen for interstitial leprosy. Paucibacillary (6 months) and multibacillary (12 months) are part of a three-drug regimen used to treat leprosy.


Ofloxacin is a pyridine carboxylic acid derivative with a broad spectrum of bactericidal action. It is used for isolated lesions called patient-bacterial leprosy. It is also used as second-line therapy in combination with clarithromycin, minocycline, and clofazimine in patients with rifampicin-resistant leprosy.


Suppresses the growth of mycobacteria and predominantly binds to the DNA of mycobacteria. It has antibacterial properties, but its mechanism of action is unknown. This is part of a two-drug regimen for treating low bacillary leprosy.

Leprosy (6 months) and polybacteria (12 months) are part of a three-drug regimen for the treatment of leprosy. It is no longer available in the US. It can only be used with National Hansen’s Disease Control Program (NHDP) authorization for new drug research (IND).


Minocycline is a semi-synthetic tetracycline. Has a bacteriostatic effect. It inhibits protein synthesis and accumulates selectively insensitive organisms. It is used in patients with isolated interstitial leprosy lesions who cannot tolerate clofazimine. It is also used as second-line therapy in combination with clarithromycin, ofloxacin, and clofazimine in patients with rifampicin-resistant leprosy.

What are the complications of leprosy?

If the patient neglects his/her problems and delay in diagnosis and treatment then it can lead to serious complications. These include-

  1. Deformities
  2. Loss of eyebrows and eyelashes
  3. Muscle weakness
  4. Irreversible damage to the nerves of the arms and legs
  5. Inability to use the limbs
  6. Chronic nosebleeds
  7. Inflammation of the destroyed septum
  8. Inflammation of the iris.
  9. Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  10. Infertility
  11. Kidney failure

How can prevent leprosy?

The best way to prevent the spread of leprosy is to diagnose and treat infected people early. For household contacts, immediate and annual testing is recommended at least 5 years after the last contact with an infected person. Primary prevention of leprosy includes immunosuppression, chemoprophylaxis, and public education to prevent M. leprae infection.


1. https://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/treatment/index.html
2. https://www.who.int/health-topics/leprosy#tab=tab_1
3. https://www.medicinenet.com/leprosy/article.htm
4. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/220455-medication#2
5. https://www.leprosymission.org.uk/about/faqs/
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