Which animals carry the disease leprosy

Never touch!

20 percent of all nine banded armadillos in the southern United States are infected with leprosy.

It's the armadillos. An international team of researchers is now certain of this, having solved a medical mystery with the help of genetic detective work: why dozens of people in the USA get leprosy every year, even though they have never been to countries where the disease is common, such as in India.

Leprosy causes skin changes, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. It was previously believed that the disease was only transmitted from person to person. The genetic analyzes have now shown that both humans and armadillos in the southern United States are infected with a strain of bacteria that causes leprosy. The researchers suspect that the armored animal is an ideal host because of its low body temperature (34 to 36 degrees) and can transmit the disease to anyone who hunts, cooks or tends it.

The findings confirm earlier assumptions about the role of the armadillo as a carrier of leprosy. Fortunately, the risk of getting it is low. Only five percent of the population are genetically susceptible. However, it is safer not to touch armadillos.

But, leprosy is curable:

250,000 new cases of leprosy are known worldwide every year. Besides humans, nine-banded armadillos are the only animals that carry the infectious bacteria.
The disease is not transmitted through handshakes or sex. The bacteria probably get into the body through cuts or the mucous membranes. Severe forms of leprosy - where the fingers or toes fall off - are rare these days because the disease can be treated. "Such consequences usually only appear after decades without treatment," says Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Detected in good time, a mixture of three antibiotics cures almost all infections.

In Spanish and English, armadillos are called armadillos, which means something like: the armored.

What does an armadillo look like? The Texas Armadillo:


A relative is the spherical armadillo. His armor is built so that it can curl up into an armored ball.


(NG, issue 01/2013, page (s) 46)