Essay by Mike WallisHigh School, 11th gradeF, February 1996

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Mike Wallis


Leprosy or Hansen's disease, is a chronic, infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves. A rod shaped bacillus named Mycobacterium leprea, causes the virus. Mycobacterium leprea is very similar to the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. The reason Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease, is because it was first identified in 1874 by a Norwegian physician named Gerhard Henrik Armeur Hansen.

Leprosy appears in both the Old and New Testaments. In the bible Leprosy was not the disease that is recognized now, but as various physical conditions that were nothing like the disease. A punishment from God was what these conditions were considered to be. The victim was said to be in a state of defilement. This Hebrew term was translated as lepros, which the word leprosy came from.

The disease's probable origin was the Indus Valley that is located in India.

Leprosy spread from there to the Mediterranean region and North Africa, then all of Europe was affected. This disease is much less common now, as the world case count has dropped below 1 million. During 1995 about 530 000 new cases of leprosy were discovered. It is obvious that third world countries have way more cases as India, Indonesia, and Myanmar account for almost 70% of the cases reported in the world. 5500 know cases of Leprosy still exist in the US, and about 200 cases a reported annually.

Tests to produce leprosy in experimental animals, have not been successful as of yet. Though the organism can be grown in

Armadillos, several laboratories have been reported cultivating leprosy in the test tube.

Loss of sensation in a patch of skin is often the first symptom that Leprosy displays. In the lepromatous form, large...