Armadillos as vectors of Hansen’s disease

Zoonotic transmission of Mycobacterium leprae to humans by 9 banded armadillos was reported in the Southern United States of America, mainly in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Armadillos’ meat are consumed in some areas of Brazil, including Para state.  This consumption includes a kind of ceviche using raw liver of armadillos. Researchers detected in the study genetic material of Mycobacterium leprae by PCR in 10 of the 16 animals included, in addition antibodies to a Mycobacterium leprae specific antigen, phenolic glycolipid, was positive in 92/146 residents in two small towns of Belterra, São Jorge and Corpus Christi, in Pará state, including 3 known cases of leprosy and four new cases diagnosed during the study.  The authors considered that infection by eating armadillo’s cooked meat is very low, as the mycobacteria would be killed by the heat, but infection by eating the peculiar “ceviche” poses a real risk of leprosy transmission. Our journal’s note: In Brazil, to capture, hunt and consume armadillos’ meat is considered an environmental crime.

da Silva MB, Portela JM, Li W, Jackson M, Gonzalez-Juarrero M, Hidalgo AS, et al. Evidence of zoonotic leprosy in Pará, Brazilian Amazon, and risks associated with human contact or consumption of armadillos. Plos Neg Trop Dis. 2018;12(6):e-0006532. https://doi.org/10.1271/journal.pntd.0006532

Armadillos as vectors of Hansen’s disease

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