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Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

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Leprosy (Hansen's Disease) is a chronic infectious disease that primarily affects the peripheral nerves, skin, upper respiratory tract, eyes, and nasal mucosa (lining of the nose). The disease is caused by a bacillus (rod-shaped) bacterium known as Mycobacterium leprae.

Researchers are exploring more avenues than ever before in the search for solutions to leprosy, now that the genome of M. leprae has been sequenced. NIAID's goals are to discover reservoirs of infection, routes of transmission, and incubation periods so the disease can be stopped before patients even have symptoms. New tests for early detection of leprosy before nerve damage occurs are now being developed.


Leprosy in U.S. May Be Transmitted by Armadillos, Study Finds—April 27, 2011

National Institutes of Health Research Radio Podcast—Christine Sizemore, Ph.D., discusses leprosy in the 3rd segment of this NIH podcast from May 30, 2008

News from NIAID-Supported Institutions

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Understanding Leprosy

What is Leprosy?


Diagnosis and Treatment


History of the Disease


Leprosy Today


Research on Leprosy


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Last Updated September 30, 2013

Last Reviewed May 11, 2011