Author(s): Sasaki S, Takeshita F, Okuda K, Ishii N
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Abstract Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which was discovered by G.H.A. Hansen in 1873. M. leprae is an exceptional bacterium because of its long generation time and no growth in artificial media. Entire sequencing of the bacterial genome revealed numerous pseudogenes (inactive reading frames with functional counterparts in M. tuberculosis) which might be responsible for the very limited metabolic activity of M. leprae. The clinical demonstration of the disease is determined by the quality of host immune response. Th1-type immune response helps to kill the bacteria, but hosts are encroached upon when Th2-type response is predominant. The bacteria have affinity to the peripheral nerves and are likely to cause neuropathy. M. leprae/laminin-alpha2 complexes bind to alpha/beta dystroglycan complexes expressed on the Schwann cell surface. WHO recommends a chemotherapy protocol [multidrug therapy (MDT)] which effectively controls the disease and contributes to the global elimination program. Leprosy has been stigmatized throughout history, and recent topics regarding the disease in Japan are also discussed.
This article was published in Microbiol Immunol
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals