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28.04.2020 | Original Article | Ausgabe 10/2020

European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases 10/2020

Leprosy in the twenty-first century: a microbiological, clinical, and epidemiological study in northwestern Spain

European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases > Ausgabe 10/2020
Gema Barbeito-Castiñeiras, Beatriz Mejuto, Amparo Coira Nieto, María Jesús Domínguez Santalla, Antonio Aguilera Guirao, María Luisa Pérez del Molino
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Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is a chronic granulomatous disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae and the recently discovered Mycobacterium lepromatosis. In Spain and other countries, where leprosy has been eliminated, an increasing number of imported cases have been documented, especially from South Africa and South America. The diagnosis of leprosy is mainly clinical, based on the signs established by the World Health Organization (WHO), although laboratory tools can be useful for diagnostic confirmation. The treatment is based on the administration of multi-drug therapy, and involves the multidisciplinary work of experts in ophthalmology, orthopedics, and physiotherapy. We studied the confirmed cases by microbiological and /or histopathological diagnosis in the health area of Santiago de Compostela (456,874 inhabitants in Galicia, in the Northwest of Spain), analyzing their clinical, microbiological, and epidemiological characteristics (2006–2015). In our study, we describe five cases of leprosy, four of them imported and one that, in the absence of more data, is native. Although we have only documented five cases during the 10 years of the study, our experience highlights the importance of considering the country of origin, travel history, and contacts in patients or staff working with leprosy patients. Despite the decrease of leprosy in our environment, it is important to enhance suspicion of the disease among health personnel, especially in those patients from countries where leprosy is endemic and those in close contact with the diagnosed patients.

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