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What is leprosy?

Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. It mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, upper respiratory tract mucosa and eyes. Leprosy is notorious as a disabling disease and impairments are often a strong contributor to activity limitations, stigma and exclusion.

Transmission is most likely through droplets from the nose and mouth from untreated patients. Patients can be cured within 6 to 12 months using multi-​drug therapy (MDT). Patients are no longer infectious within a few days of starting MDT.

Leprosy is still found in many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Detection and diagnosis are difficult, because there is no lab test to diagnose leprosy, and signs and symptoms are very mild in the early stages of the diseases.

Leprosy, an ancient disease which nowadays still defines the lives of millions of people”

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Photography: Claire Stout /​Jan Joseph Stok

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