Hansen Disease (Leprosy) and Armadillo Exposure in Arkansas: A Case Series

Am J Dermatopathol. 2020 Oct;42(10):769-773. doi: 10.1097/DAD.0000000000001660.


Background: Although most cases of Hansen disease (HD) in the United States are imported from endemic areas, a subset of cases are relate to exposure to nine-banded armadillos. Several recent cases of HD in Arkansas occurred in patients who had not traveled to endemic areas and who reported variable degrees of armadillo exposure.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to report 6 cases of HD diagnosed in Arkansas between 2004 and 2016. The secondary purpose was to explore the correlation between exposure to the nine-banded armadillo as it pertains to transmission of the disease.

Methods: The referring clinician of each patient was contacted to gather information regarding the patient's clinical presentation, armadillo exposure, and travel history. In addition, the Arkansas Department of Health was consulted to review the demographics of individuals diagnosed with HD in the past 15 years and to review the distribution of HD throughout the state of Arkansas.

Results: Six domestic cases of HD were associated with both direct and indirect exposure to armadillos.

Limitations: Armadillo exposure may be underreported in patients with HD because of fear of stigmatization and/or lack of access to care.

Conclusions: Direct exposure to armadillos does not appear to be required for transmission of HD making a soil-mediated mechanism of indirect exposure plausible.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Arkansas / epidemiology
  • Armadillos / microbiology*
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leprosy, Multibacillary / diagnosis
  • Leprosy, Multibacillary / epidemiology*
  • Leprosy, Multibacillary / pathology*
  • Leprosy, Multibacillary / transmission
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium leprae / isolation & purification
  • Skin / pathology
  • Soil Microbiology