Leprosy Still Claiming Victims

Thursday, 03 Jul 2014 02:34 PM

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Leprosy may be the oldest infectious disease to strike human beings, with origins dating back millions of years, but it continues to surprise and confound doctors and medical scientists, The New York Times reports. 
 
The illness can now readily be cured through antibiotics, yet the basic nature of the microbial culprit — a waxy, rod-shaped actor called Mycobacterium leprae — is still being sketched out. New research suggests that the leprosy parasite is both rugged and feeble, exacting and inept.
 
One research group suggests the pathogen has remarkable persistence, which is why it has been around so long. Yet scientists have also found that the leprosy bacillus is remarkably poor at migrating between human hosts. It dies quickly outside the body — in just a couple of hours — and about 95 percent of people appear immune to it.
 
"I refer to it as a wimp of a pathogen," said Richard Truman, the chief of the laboratory research branch at the National Hansen’s Disease Program, a federal program dedicated to the treatment and study of leprosy.

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