Texas Animal Shelter Coalition

Leprosy_USA:Armadillo Transmission

  • 30 Nov 2015
  • 14 Dec 2015
  • Texas

In Animal Control circles we talk about the threat of Leprosy from Armadillos quite often.

Today I read an article on this very subject stateing that the range of the nine banded Armadillo is expanding into other states.

Thought y’all might be interested as well.





A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the

International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Mon 16 Nov 2015

Source: Midday Daily [edited]




According to a new study, the armadillos carrying the leprosy bacteria

-- called _Mycobacterium leprae_ -- that live in the southern United States have spread over the past few years and can now be found in a lot more regions.


In the paper, published [29 Oct 2015] in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases -- the researchers wrote that the 9-banded armadillos that were once found only in Louisiana and Texas actually live in other areas in southeastern United States [1]. They can transmit the _M. leprae_ bacteria to humans.


Leprosy, which is also called Hansen's disease (HD), is a chronic infection caused by the bacterium _M. leprae_. Dr David Scollard, director of the National Hansen's Disease Program Laboratory Research Branch said that ever since the 1940s, people have used antibiotics to cure Hansen's disease. Nowadays there is even more effective medication.


The infection is very rare and does not represent a public health threat, stated Richard W Truman, lead author of the study and chief of the laboratory research branch for the National Hansen's Disease Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


In the study, the researchers conducted tests on 645 armadillos in 4 states -- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia -- from 2003 to

2012 and found that there were armadillos infected with _M. leprae_ in each of the locations. Evidence of the infection was found in approximately 16 percent of the armadillos, the researchers said.

These areas were previously thought to be infection-free.


Truman says that the spared of Hansen's disease from armadillos to humans is very low. Only 5 percent of the population is susceptible to _M. leprae_ infection. Hansen's disease typically affects the nerves and skin and has symptoms like skin lesions, deformity, and nerve damage. Previous findings showed that 95 [percent] of people are immune to the _M. leprae_ bacteria, and even if they are exposed to it they do not get infected.


In the United States, about 150 to 250 cases of Hansen's disease are diagnosed annually, according to Truman. Another study found that 40 of the new Hansen's disease cases occur because of exposure to armadillos carrying the leprosy bacteria. These who consume [raw or improperly cooked?] armadillo's meat are more exposed to the bacteria and have an increased risk of getting the infection, Truman added.


[Byline: Amanda Lane]




1. Sharma R, Singh P, Loughry WJ, et al: Zoonotic leprosy in the southeastern United States. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015; 21(12) [date cited]; available at <http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/12/15-0501_article>].


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