#BacktoBasics: Historical Aspects of Leprosy: A forgotten di
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Geniticists determined that leprosy originated in East Africa or the Near East and traveled with humans along their migration routes, including those of trade in goods and slaves. The four strains of M. leprae are based in specific geographic regions. Strain 1 occurs predominantly in East Africa, Asia, and the Pacific region; strain 2 in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal/North India, and New Caledonia; strain 3 in Europe, North Africa, and the Americas; and strain 4 in West Africa and the Caribbean.

History of leprosy- Ancient and medieval

The earliest possible account of a disease that many scholars believe is leprosy appears in an Egyptian Papyrus document written around 1550 B.C. Around 600 B.C. Indian writings describe a disease that resembles leprosy. In Europe, leprosy first appeared in the records of ancient Greece after the army of Alexander the Great came back from India and then in Rome in 62 B.C. coinciding with the return of Pompeii's troops from Asia Minor.

Even in modern times, leprosy treatment has often occurred in separate hospitals and live-in colonies called leprosariums because of the stigma of the disease.

Modern History: a timeline of trials and treatments

1873: Dr. Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen of Norway was the first person to identify the germ that causes leprosy under a microscope. Hansen's discovery of Mycobacterium leprae proved that leprosy was caused by a germ, and was thus not hereditary, from a curse, or from a sin.

Early 20th century: Until the late 1940s, leprosy doctors all over the world treated patients by injecting them with oil from the chaulmoogra nut. This treatment was painful, and its long term efficacy was questionable

1921: U.S. Public Health Service established the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, Louisiana, which became known as “Carville.” It became a center of research and testing to find a cure for leprosy and a live-in treatment center for leprosy patients.

1970’s: The first successful multi-drug treatment (MDT) regimen for leprosy was developed through drug trials on the island of Malta.

1981: The World Health Organization began recommending MDT, a combination of three drugs: dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine.

MDT is still the best treatment for preventing nerve damage, deformity, disability and further transmission. Researchers are working on developing a vaccine and ways to detect leprosy sooner in order to start treatment earlier.

Source: https://web.stanford.edu/class/humbio103/ParaSites2005/Leprosy/history.htm
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