Leprosy Disease Understanding

Investigating the Poorly Understood Leprosy Transmission Mechanisms

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. It primarily affects the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes.[1] The leprosy transmission mechanism is a person to person transfer through droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.[2] However, it’s important to note that the disease is not highly contagious. It requires prolonged, close contact with someone who has the disease and is not undergoing treatment.

Genetic Susceptibility and Leprosy

While the exact mechanism of transmission remains unclear, research suggests that genetic susceptibility plays a significant role.[3] This means that some people may be more genetically predisposed to contracting the disease than others. However, it’s crucial to remember that leprosy is a disease that anyone can contract, regardless of their genetic makeup.

Risk Factors for Leprosy

Risk factors for leprosy include close contact with a person who has the disease and is not undergoing treatment. This is often seen in crowded living conditions where the disease can spread more easily.[4] However, it’s important to note that the majority of people who come into contact with the bacteria do not develop the disease.

Leprosy: A Curable Disease

Despite the fear and stigma surrounding leprosy, it’s important to emphasize that it is a curable disease. With appropriate care and medication, the disease can be stopped in its tracks. In fact, with as little as one week of treatment, leprosy patients are no longer contagious.[5] However, early detection and treatment are key to preventing the long-term physical effects of the disease, such as nerve damage and disfigurement.[6]

GFA World plays a significant role in combating leprosy, particularly in Asia. Through GFA-supported leprosy ministry, Sisters of Compassion and other national workers are ministering to the needs of leprosy patients, bestowing dignity to those whom others have rejected. They provide medical care, emotional support, and practical help, demonstrating God’s deep care for all His creation.

As we’ve seen, leprosy is a disease that can be stopped with early detection and treatment. However, the stigma surrounding the disease often prevents people from seeking help. GFA World’s leprosy ministry is working to change this by providing care and support to those affected by leprosy. By sponsoring a GFA World national missionary or giving toward GFA World’s leprosy ministry, you can help bring hope and healing to those affected by this devastating disease.

Learn more about leprosy disease understanding

[1] “Leprosy.” World Health Organization: WHO, January 27, 2023. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy.
[2] CDC. “Transmission,” June 1, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/transmission/index.html.
[3] Bhat, Ramesh Marne, and Chaitra Prakash. “Leprosy: An Overview of Pathophysiology.” Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases 2012 (2012): 181089. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/181089.
[4] Lastória, Joel Carlos, and Marilda Aparecida Milanez Morgado de Abreu. “Leprosy: Review of the Epidemiological, Clinical, and Etiopathogenic Aspects – Part 1.” Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia 89, no. 2 (2014): 205–18. https://doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20142450.
[5] World Health Organization: WHO. “Leprosy.” World Health Organization: WHO, January 27, 2023. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy.
[6] “Treatment.” Accessed November 4, 2023. https://www.who.int/teams/control-of-neglected-tropical-diseases/leprosy/treatment.