The dreaded disease, Leprosy, is an infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis bacteria. G. H. Armauer Hansen discovered M. leprae, the causative agent of leprosy, in Norway in 1873. This was the first bacterium to be identified as causing disease in humans. The latest research indicates that individuals had been infected with M. leprae at least as early as 4000 B.C. Ancient China, Egypt, and India, recognized the disease with several references to the disease in ancient literature of these regions.
Descriptions of skin diseases in the ancient Indian text, the Atharava Veda, translated as leprosy appear as early as 2000 BC. While the Laws of Manu (1500 BC), forbid contact with those infected with the disease and anyone marrying a person infected with leprosy was punished.
The disease is very disfiguring, takes anywhere between 5 to 10 years to show symptoms. It was poorly understood and no known treatment was available during ancient times. The disease was thought to be a curse or punishment from the gods by many cultures. Due to this belief, leprosy was "treated" by priests or holy men, with not much progress made in medicine.
The 2009 WHO classifications are based on:
- Paucibacillary leprosy i.e., skin lesions where bacilli (M. leprae) are not seen in a skin smear
- Multibacillary leprosy are skin lesions where bacilli (M. leprae) are seen in a skin smear
- Loss of temperature sensation
- Touch sensation reduced
- Pins and needles sensations
- Joint Pain.
- Pressure sensations become decreased or lost.
- Nerve injury.
- Weight loss.
- Blisters and/or rashes.
- Ulcers, relatively painless.
- Skin lesions of flat, pale areas of skin that lost color (hypo-pigmented macules)
- Eye damage (dryness, reduced blinking)
- Large ulcerations (later symptoms and signs)
- Hair loss (for example, loss of eyebrows)
- Loss of digits
- Facial disfigurement, i.e., loss of nose.
Multidrug therapy (MDT) consisting of 3 antibiotics:
For Multibacillary Leprosy
- Rifampicin, and
Modified MDT consisting of 2 antibiotics:
For Paucibacillary Leprosy