SEP 26, 2016 03:15 PM PDT

What is Leprosy?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Leprosy is a much-stigmatized disease dominated by many misconceptions. Caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, leprosy mainly affects the skin and the peripheral nerves. The deadening of nerves in the fingers and toes often lead to infections that require amputation. This is contrary to the fallacy that the leprosy bacterium is a flesh-eating one.

Leprosy is also not a death sentence anymore. Since 1995, the World Health Organization provides a multi-drug therapy that's effective against the leprosy bacteria. However, the stigma associated with this disease prevents some infected people from seeking help. Furthermore, the practice of ostracizing people with leprosy has only hindered treatment strategies.

In fact, in the United States, there's a history of ostracism of people with leprosy, with the residual consequences still around today. From 1866 to 1969, more than 8,000 leprosy patients were forcibly taken from their families and exiled to the remote Kalaupapa peninsula in Hawaii. But while the quarantine was lifted decades ago, some living leprosy patients still remain on the island.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
The Science Behind the First Powered Flight on Another Planet
NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 mission involves much more than just another land-based rover – it will also pioneer the very first powered flight on...
OCT 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 20, 2019
These Monkeys Thought a Troop Member Died, and Their Reactions Are Heartbreaking
Scientists carefully placed a high-detail animatronic ‘spy monkey’ near the site of a troop’s living quarters in an effort to gather info...
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
ESA's Upcoming Euclid Space Telescope Could Teach Us About Dark Energy
The European Space Agency is currently developing a new visible to near-infrared space telescope dubbed Euclid, which is expected to tell us more about the...
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
How Large Solar Storms Can Impact Earth's Power Grid
The Sun is a powerful ball of energy, and with that in mind, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it can sometimes become unstable. Over time, the...
OCT 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 20, 2019
Watch An Ant Colony Attack This Crab Like a Bunch of Savages
Ants have a particularly striking reputation for being somewhat relentless, and as it would seem, such a reputation doesn’t fetter even when the anim...
OCT 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 20, 2019
It's True, Elephants Are Highly Intelligent Animals
If you’re ever asked what the world’s smartest animal is, then the humble elephant should certainly come to mind. These incredible beasts have...
Loading Comments...