Carolyn's Daily Posts: 2011

July 22, 2011

The Leprosy-Armadillo Connection in the United States


CAROLYN’S DAILY POSTS: 2011

THE LEPROSY-ARMADILLO CONNECTION

IN THE UNITED STATES

What do a Biblical plague and an armadillo have in common?

Leprosy.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

     Apparently about one hundred and fifty Americans become plagued by leprosy each year. Two-thirds of the victims contract it while traveling overseas.

     The other third?

      Most of them are from Texas, Alabama, and  Louisiana.

     There are strains of Mycobacterium leprae, the bacteria that causes leprosy, found in humans and armadillos in this country and South America.

    Researchers have shown that by showing that wild armadillos and leprosy patients share the same, uniquely American strain of bacteria.

…there was no leprosy in the New World until European settlers arrived. Somehow armadillos contracted the disease, and now about 15 percent of armadillos carry it. They are ideal hosts, because M. leprae likes their low, 89-degree body temperature. It can’t thrive at a human’s core temperature, which is why it only attacks our cooler extremities.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~

     That’s one more thing that Americans, particularly Southerners, will have to eliminate from their diet—armadillo burgers, steaks, stew, chili, and barbeques. It seems that the southern-living armadillo and leprosy patients share the same, uniquely American strain of bacteria. It was discovered in the animal in the 1970s.

     People become infected by handling raw armadillo meat, and occasionally by removing roadkill.  Avoid these activities if you live in armadillo country. But don’t panic—leprosy from armadillos is still a low-risk proposition.  

SOURCES

*http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/04/28/135740951/mysterious-leprosy-cases-linked-to-armadillos?ps=sh_sthdl

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/05/armadillos-linked-to-leprosy-i.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~    

ADDITIONAL READING:

BEAR CONFRONTATIONS: SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

THE AMAZING BEAVER

Dog Stories I Heard and Told at the Cafe

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