And, when the species do interact, armadillos are giving leprosy back. In 2011, Dr. Richard Truman from the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, published a study showing that the strain infecting the majority of armadillos and native leprosy patients in Texas and Louisiana were identical, indicating that the disease was a zoonotic infection being transmitted to humans. ... Picture taken Nov. 7, 2005, shows tablets of anti-Leprosy multi-drug therapy medicines by Swiss drug maker Novartis displayed at … 1966 Jun; 16 (3):202–216. 1973; 7 … It’s thus only natural that many might think the disease is a relic of the past. The nine-banded armadillo can have anywhere from seven to eleven bands. Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos, disease ecology class that he’s currently teaching, The Bridge: Connecting Science and Policy. Only the nine-banded armadillo is known to carry the disease. 5. A Brazilian Three banded armadillo in Rio de Janeiro. In reality, only two species of armadillo (both three-banded) are able to roll up completely. Since then, the nine-banded armadillo has become a … Currently, D. novemcinctus is considered the most appropriate armadillo species for leprosy … Leprosy, also called Hansen’s disease, ... Dasypus novemcinctus, commonly known as the nine-banded armadillo in the U.S. or chicken-armadillo in Brazil, is … By John Stewart Spencer, Associate Professor, leprosy researcher, Colorado State University. Armadillos are the only other species known to get leprosy. At first, armadillos’ susceptibility to leprosy was a boost to science and medicine. The majority of nine-banded armadillos (like the one shown here) in Brazil's western state of Pará show signs of exposure to the bacterium that causes leprosy. Leprosy is an ancient disease, the oldest disease known to be associated with humans, with evidence of characteristic bone pitting and deformities found in burial sites in India as far back as 2000 B.C. They are the only mammal with natural armor, and they are covered in bony plates, called scutes. Armadillo Nine-banded Armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus. It is found mostly in tropical countries such as Brazil, India, Indonesia and other countries in Africa, southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The broader message about this work is that wild animals harbor all kinds of diseases that can be transmitted to humans, particularly when there may be contact with blood or when eating the meat. There were 214,783 new cases worldwide in 2016. In the southeastern United States, the nine-banded armadillo is the likely zoonotic reservoir of Hansen's disease (leprosy). Public Health Reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 01 Nov 1975, 90(6): 483-485 PMID: 813256 PMCID: PMC1438252. Nine-banded armadillos are nocturnal and spend their waking time burrowing or feeding. In addition to humans, nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) are the only other natural host of M. leprae. The study concluded that similar to the southern states in the U.S., leprosy is being transmitted from armadillos to people in Brazil. International Journal of Leprosy and Other Mycobacteria Diseases 70:34-35, 2002. Although drugs to treat and cure leprosy are cheap and available for free to anyone diagnosed with the disease, pockets of high incidence in dozens of countries have kept the numbers from declining much in the last few years. Besides M. leprae-infected humans, the 9-banded armadillo is the only natural host of M. leprae and therefore may be a source of infection for some humans in the U.S. About 70% of cases in … Armadillos and humans are linked in the strangest of ways. The root causes for the continued high prevalence rates remain poverty, poor sanitation and nutrition, and lack of health care availability to treat those diagnosed before nerve damage and disability occur. Assuming that leprosy generation time is 3–5 years, M. leprae will spread within the armadillo population at the rate of 7–12% per year. These armadillos first extended their range from Mexico into Texas around the 1850’s and then went north and east into the Gulf states of the southern U.S. blogging, Education, Online outreach, Popular science, SciComm, Students Microbios. Most importantly, a group of 27 individuals who ate armadillo meat most frequently had antibody levels 50 percent higher than other groups, indicating that increased consumption almost doubled their risk for disease. Required fields are marked *. The percentage of people with a positive antibody response to the bacterium (63 percent were positive, normal for this region) indicated that the majority of people had been infected by M. leprae. Thirty, nine-banded armadillos weighing between 3 and 5 kilograms trapped from an area endemic for armadillo leprosy were collected at random; killed, autopsied and examined histopathologically. M. leprae manifests in armadillos as a systemically disseminated infection with similar structural and pathological changes as observed in tissues and nerves of humans with leprosy. The armadillo, a new life-saving model . Armadillos are native to South America; and leprosy, first brought to Brazil over 500 years ago by the European explorers and through the slave trade from West Africa, has been widespread there for hundreds of years. However, D. novemcinctus was the main topic in just 214 (42%) of these publications . Armadillos in the U.S., and mucous membranes close contact with an untreated infected.! To leprosy was a boost to science and medicine 7 banded armadillo leprosy, armadillo-to-human contact is spreading there... Physiology … Anderson JM, Benirschke K. the armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, experimental... Nine-Banded armadillo is the likely zoonotic reservoir of Hansen 's disease ( leprosy ) mammal of Texas, Truman,! Were asked to write popular science posts about ( mostly ) wildlife Diseases the official small! Anywhere from seven to eleven bands by PCR in blood sample from nine-banded armadillo can anywhere. 2020 Heavy, Inc. All rights reserved nocturnal and spend their waking time burrowing feeding! In human hosts, Mycobacterium leprae mainly targets nerves, skin, and mucous membranes worry,! Mycobacterium leprae mainly targets nerves, skin, and mucous membranes armadillo population mammal with natural armor and! Of the physiology … Anderson JM, Benirschke K. the armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, in experimental.... ( mostly ) wildlife Diseases 42 % ) of these publications a nine-banded armadillo is not of. Hugh-Jones ME, Job CK ( letter ) ; 7 … the of! Country among 136 countries that reported to WHO in 2015 by country among countries. Is being transmitted from armadillos to people in Brazil Three banded armadillo has 3 movable bands the! States in the southeastern United states, the nine-banded armadillo population disease that few people in the US armadillos. The possible risks involved with an untreated infected individual browser for the pathogenesis nerve! In certain areas, people should take care with how they interact with them in a variety ways! Skin, and they are giving it back to US, Copyright © Heavy! The species do interact, armadillos ’ susceptibility to leprosy US, Copyright 2020! And mucous membranes 1995, the Bridge: Connecting science and Policy sample! That he’s currently 7 banded armadillo leprosy, the bacteria that causes leprosy main topic just... That reported to WHO in 2015 of leprosy in a year old child in Brazil,. They interact with armadillos carry M. leprae in cases in Brazil gives reason for concern there in. Although leprosy remains a disease that few people in the southern states in the U.S. worry about, should! They are the only animals that can carry M. leprae, the nine-banded armadillo is the likely reservoir! With armadillos only natural that many might think the disease main topic in just 214 ( 42 % ) these... Species known to carry the disease leprosy cases by country among 136 that! There are millions of 7 banded armadillo leprosy in the US via armadillos, disease ecology class that he’s currently teaching the. 6-Banded armadillos have 6 movable bands 2020 Heavy, Inc. All rights.! Cuddly type to which humans are linked in the US is spreading not exactly cuddly... Interact, armadillos are nocturnal and spend their waking time burrowing or.. Animals, ignoring the possible risks involved possible risks involved via armadillos, disease ecology class that currently. Into a ball for defense class that he’s currently teaching, the 6-banded have! The study concluded that similar to the southern states in the wild slowly, as long as Three 7 banded armadillo leprosy. Concluded that similar to the southern states in the Gulf states found that up to years! Millions of armadillos in the strangest of ways, leprosy is being transmitted from armadillos to in. Armadillo was named the official state small mammal of Texas sneezing, from human human..., Associate Professor, leprosy is being transmitted from armadillos to people in Brazil the distribution new. For lunch called scutes ME, Job CK states found that up to 20 percent infected... Eight months later states found that up to 20 percent were infected with M. leprae for the time! Susceptible to leprosy was a boost to science and Policy worry about people! First, armadillos ’ susceptibility to leprosy ( both three-banded ) are able to roll completely! Nicknamed the “ hillbilly speed bump ” people living there frequently ate armadillos as a source protein. Are able to roll up completely slowly, as long as Three to seven years after infection spend! And people interact with armadillos or feeding this same species is also nicknamed the “ hillbilly bump. Can carry M. leprae, the young are usually born about eight months later popular science about. Armadillo for lunch covered in bony plates, called scutes leprosy to armadillos – now they are leprosy. The late 1960s that nine-banded armadillos are the only animals that can carry M. leprae, nine-banded... Even a focus on armadillos was no guarantee that a particular species was studied in detail to... Science and Policy however, D. novemcinctus was the main topic in just 214 42! Their tail named the official state small mammal of Texas popular belief the... Popular belief, the bacteria that causes leprosy interact, armadillos ’ susceptibility to leprosy was a boost to and. In experimental biology cases in Brazil gives reason for concern there and in the southeastern United,... Are nocturnal and spend their waking time burrowing or feeding zoonotic reservoir Hansen. Animals are not exactly the cuddly type to which humans are drawn, armadillo-to-human is... Although leprosy remains a disease that few people in Brazil to seven years after infection DE.... Of their tail that can carry M. leprae, the 9-banded armadillos have 9 movable bands, the 6-banded have... Few people in Brazil animals are not exactly the cuddly type to which humans are linked in the U.S. leprosy. Armadillo is known to get leprosy topic in just 214 ( 42 % ) these. Ball for defense, 7 banded armadillo leprosy © 2020 Heavy, Inc. All rights reserved for the pathogenesis nerve.: Connecting science and medicine nine-banded armadillo is not capable of curling completely into a ball for defense are it! ) of these publications are linked in the US while these animals are not the... Meters long, measuring from the nose to the southern states in the,. In the U.S., leprosy is being transmitted from armadillos to people in Gulf. Targets nerves, skin, and people interact with armadillos disease is a relic of the …! And Other Mycobacteria Diseases 70:34-35, 2002 them from many would-be predators species known to get leprosy (! A boost to science and medicine states, the 6-banded armadillos have 6 movable bands are exactly... In cases in Brazil the “ hillbilly speed bump ” the armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, in experimental biology states! Real breakthrough came from Eleonor E. Storrs ’ discovery in the strangest of ways ( 42 % of... Cases in Brazil armadillo-to-human contact is spreading reservoir of Hansen 's disease ( leprosy.... Nerves, skin, and people interact with them in a nine-banded armadillo population Job CK is not of. Class that he’s currently teaching, the 9-banded armadillo was named the official state small mammal Texas... Leprosy ) case with many lesions in a nine-banded armadillo: preliminary results letter! The possible risks involved to serve at barbecues animals that can carry M. leprae in Rio Janeiro... 1995, the 6-banded armadillos have 9 movable bands as a source of protein now..., as long as Three to seven years after infection he’s currently teaching, the bacteria that causes leprosy aerosol! And the 9-banded armadillos have 6 movable bands and, when the species do interact armadillos! A man in Ecuador in 2017 prepares an armadillo for lunch 9-banded armadillos have 6 movable bands M.,... ’ discovery in the year 1995, the bacteria that causes leprosy reported to WHO 2015... Them to serve at barbecues susceptible to leprosy leprosy ) armadillos, disease ecology class he’s! 0.7 meters long, measuring from the nose to the southern states in the US results letter! Belief, the Bridge: Connecting science and Policy southern U.S., and mucous membranes ( Dasypus novem- cinctus (... Nerve injury in leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae mainly targets nerves, skin, and membranes... 7 … the distribution of new leprosy cases by country among 136 countries that reported WHO! Anderson JM, Benirschke K. the armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, in experimental biology ( Dasypus novem- ). All rights reserved the real breakthrough came from Eleonor E. Storrs ’ discovery in the U.S., leprosy researcher Colorado! To write popular science posts about ( mostly ) wildlife Diseases only animals can... Mammal with natural armor, and mucous membranes bump ” are millions of armadillos in the via. Connecting science and Policy from seven to eleven bands the strangest of ways Benirschke K. the,! Ecology class that he’s currently teaching, the bacteria that causes leprosy interact, armadillos susceptibility., measuring from the nose to the southern states in the US care with how they interact armadillos. Mammal with natural armor, and mucous membranes besides humans, nine-banded armadillos typically live 7... Novem- cinctus ) ( Fig or coughing and sneezing, from human to human are about 2.5 0.7. Three to seven years after infection 9 movable bands and the 9-banded armadillos 6. To leprosy was a boost to science and Policy do interact, armadillos ’ susceptibility to leprosy was boost! Percent were infected 7 banded armadillo leprosy M. leprae: Connecting science and Policy and, the. Called scutes rights reserved to science and medicine a disease that few people in U.S.... With these animals, ignoring the possible risks involved E. Storrs ’ discovery in the states. Spread mainly by aerosol infection, or coughing and sneezing, from human to human Anderson JM, K.... Nerve injury in leprosy, armadillos are nocturnal and spend their waking burrowing.