Armadillos on the menu a leprosy risk

DOCTORS in the US diagnose about 150 new cases of leprosy every year, with around a third unable to be explained by recent overseas travel.

A study in wild armadillo populations in the country’s south has confirmed the mammals are the world’s “only known non-human reservoir” for Mycobacterium leprae bacteria.

 “We show that a high percentage of unrelated leprosy cases in the southern US involve infection with the same unique strain of M. leprae that occurs naturally among wild armadillos in the region,” the researchers said.

“Frequent direct contact with armadillos and cooking and consumption of armadillo meat should be discouraged.”

N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1626-33