Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Myths | Misconceptions | Understanding Leprosy

Several myths and fallacies surrounds leprosy. Many people believe that it is caused by eating spoiled food or by eating certain food combinations like chicken and squash. Others believe that leprosy is a result of pasma, for example, taking a bath after ironing clothes is believed to increase the likelihood of developing the disease. Contacting the disease from bathing in a river where a leprosy patient bathed is another false belief. In some regions of the Philippines, its even believed that merely stepping on the footprints of a patient will cause the transfer of the disease.

Leprosy is a very complex and mysterious disease. Nobody really knows the exact mode of transmission. However, based on studies, the surest and acceptable mode of transmission is through droplet infection. It has been found that millions of the bacillus called Mycobacterium leprae, are found in the mucosa of the respiratory tract, particularly in the multibacillary (MB) patients.

When a person with leprosy who is not taking any form of anti leprosy medication, coughs or sneezes, droplets are released in the air and enter the respiratory tract of other individuals. The skin is less probable route since the bacilli cannot penetrate the intact skin. Leprosy is not carried in the genes, hence not hereditary. Mycobacterium leprae is not a very efficient pathogenic organism. It is easily counteracted by our body's immune system.



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