Communicable Diseases Module: 18. Leprosy Diagnosis

Study Session 18  Leprosy Diagnosis


Leprosy is a mildly infectious chronic disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae — a type of bacterium similar to the one that causes TB. After entering the body, the bacteria grow very slowly and usually affect the peripheral nerves (nerves situated close to the body surface). However, as you will shortly learn, leprosy bacteria can have an influence on other organs of the body, such as the skin and eyes.

Leprosy patients have to deal with stigma and discrimination associated with the disease – feelings of shame or disgrace about the condition and unfair treatment from others. Leprosy patients are often referred to as lepers, but nowadays this is not acceptable; you should refer to them as people with leprosy or leprosy patients. Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT), treatment using combinations of anti-leprosy drugs. You will learn all about it in Study Session 19. MDT kills the bacteria responsible and stops the spread of the disease. Early detection and treatment will prevent disabilities.

In this study session, you will learn how to identify a leprosy ‘suspect’ and confirm a leprosy patient. In addition, you will learn how leprosy affects the body and how you can provide support for people living with leprosy. The knowledge and skills you gain will enable you to provide information to the community about leprosy. You will also be able to advise them on what they can do to prevent the spread of the disease, support patients during treatment and help to reduce stigma and discrimination suffered by persons affected by leprosy.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 18