Nonhuman sources of leprosy

Int J Lepr Other Mycobact Dis. 1992 Sep;60(3):477-80.


Our findings establish that there are known extrahuman reservoirs of M. leprae in three animal species. There is considerable evidence that the armadillo plays a role in the epidemiology of leprosy in humans in Texas and Louisiana. The elimination of leprosy as a public health problem (defined by the World Health Organization as one active patient per 10,000 population) may be attainable by the wide application of current control measures; however, the ultimate eradication of leprosy must take into account extrahuman reservoirs of M. leprae. The impact that attempts to control or to eliminate leprosy in such reservoirs (e.g., the armadillo in Louisiana and Texas) would have on environmental and wild-life considerations would be profound. Whether or not similar situations prevail in other leprosy-endemic geographic areas is not known. Based on the armadillo experience, there seems to be ample justification for undertaking, forthwith, carefully designed surveys for enzootic leprosy in some of the major endemic areas of leprosy. At the current state of our knowledge of the subject, such surveys should be initiated in the natural habitats of the mangabey monkey and chimpanzees--in West Africa.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Armadillos / microbiology
  • Cercocebus atys / microbiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Humans
  • Leprosy / transmission*
  • Mycobacterium leprae / growth & development*
  • Pan troglodytes / microbiology
  • Zoonoses / microbiology*