Los Angeles: With some genetic sleuthing, scientists have fingered a likely culprit in the spread of leprosy in the southern United States: the nine-banded armadillo. DNA tests show a match in the leprosy strain between some patients and these prehistoric-looking critters a connection scientists had suspected but until now couldn`t pin down. "Now we have the link," said James Krahenbuhl, who heads a government leprosy program that led the new study.Only about 150 leprosy cases occur each year in the US, mostly among travellers to places like India, Brazil and Angola where it`s more common. The risk of getting leprosy from an armadillo is low because most people who get exposed don`t get sick with the ancient scourge, known medically as Hansen`s disease and now easily treatable.
Of the 15 patients for whom researchers had information, seven said they had no contact with armadillos; eight said they did, including one who routinely hunted andate them. While the work did not document direct transmission from animal to human, "the evidence is pretty convincing that it happens," said Dr. Brian Currie, an infectious diseaseexpert at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, who had no role in the study.Bureau Report
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