The armadillo menace

A Nine-banded Armadillo in the Green Swamp, ce...

The Nine-Banded Armadillo; Image via Wikipedia

Lauren K. (11 AM lecture) found this article from the New York Times, about the dangers of having a pet armadillo:

I found an article that has confirmed that Armadillos do indeed cause leprosy in humans. The name of the article is “Armadillos Can Transport Leprosy to Humans, Federal Researches Confirm.” This article was published on Wednesday the 27th in the New York Times. Leprosy is similar to H.I.V/AIDS and SARS which are all known to jump from animals to humans.

Usually, doctors aren’t quick to diagnose a patient with Leprosy unless they have previous traveled to parts of the world where Leprosy is endemic. Such places are Brazil, the Philippines and Africa. 2/3 of the people who are diagnosed with Leprosy have traveled to such places which make sense when they get Leprosy because there is an abundance of armadillos there. The remaining patients who are diagnosed with Leprosy are usually in the United States.

The cases in the study were mostly concentrated in Texas and Louisiana where they said people hunt, skin and eat armadillos.  These cases help to determine that indeed armadillos do cause Leprosy even in the people who suffer from it in the U.S.

Although Leprosy has decreased as the years go by, there are still cases that arise in the United States every year. Antibiotics can cure Leprosy if it is found relatively quickly, although it is very common for people in the United States to not recognize the skin lesions in time which end up with them suffering because they are not accurately diagnosed.

This research done will hopefully lead to doctors not ruling out Leprosy too early when seeing skin lesions on patients. This study has showed doctors that they need to question and ask patients if they are ever in close proximity to armadillos because if their answer is yes, it’s likely that they suffer from Leprosy.

It is shown in many other studies that up to 20 percent of armadillos in some particular areas are indeed infected with leprosy. From Colorado to North Carolina, armadillos are seen to be living in places similar to what opossums live in.

Until this study, there has not been proof that Leprosy cases in humans in the United States are caused by armadillos. This study shows that people should not consume armadillo flesh or handle it because armadillos indeed will infect you with Leprosy.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on April 29, 2011, in Danger danger danger!, Microbes in the News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m glad to see this study; I wouldn’t want to go on a trip to any place armadillos are at. I looked it up its very easy to get it just by handling them or consuming armadillo meat, and are a presumed vector and also they are natural reservoir for the disease in Texas and Louisiana like you have mention.

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