Leprosy in women: characteristics and repercussions

Soc Sci Med. 1993 Aug;37(4):445-56. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(93)90280-h.


"Health is often measured in terms of low mortality; nevertheless, merely being alive is not a measure of the quality of life" H. Méndez Castellanos. Physiological, socioeconomic and cultural factors play important roles in the response of women to Mycobacterium leprae and in the impact of leprosy on their lives. They appear to develop stronger immunological responses to M. leprae than men, as suggested by lower incidence and less severe clinical forms of disease in most areas of the world, as well as stronger reactions of cell-mediated immunity after prophylactic vaccination. Genetic factors and physiological status including pregnancy, intercurrent infection and malnutrition might be among the factors which modulate this response. Women in leprosy-endemic areas of the world, with few exceptions, suffer from marked economic and social dependency and inferiority which can only be heightened by the social stigma associated with leprosy. Nevertheless, they bear an enormous responsibility for the health of their families, often as head of the household, and they often possess a unique capacity to influence community opinion. With the introduction of multidrug therapy, leprosy control throughout the world is no longer an unrealistic goal. Active vaccination may constitute the other factor necessary for eventual eradication of the disease. The incorporation of women at all levels into active roles in health care programs may constitute one of the decisive factors in the success or failure of leprosy control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Leprosy / classification
  • Leprosy / diagnosis
  • Leprosy / epidemiology*
  • Leprosy / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Desirability
  • Socioeconomic Factors