Subclinical Infection in LeprosyBr Med J 1973; 3 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.3.5880.557 (Published 15 September 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;3:557
- Tore Godal,
- Kesete Negassi
Lymphocyte transformation has been used to study the immune response to Mycobacterium leprae among contacts and non-contacts of leprosy patients. Of 26 subjects living in a leprosy endemic area for less than two months none responded to M. leprae; 24% of subjects who had lived in an endemic area for more than a year gave a positive response to M. leprae; more than 50% of individuals with occupational contact of leprosy for more than a year responded; and about 50% of contacts of tuberculoid and treated lepromatous patients responded to M. leprae, while only 22% (4/18) of contacts of lepromatous patients treated for less than six months responded.
It seems that leprosy is more highly infectious than is indicated by the prevalence of the disease and that a subclinical infection commonly follows exposure to M. leprae. The relatively low response found in contacts of active lepromatous patients suggests that in these contacts “superexposure” to M. leprae can bring about a decrease in host resistance.