What is Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) and How to Use the Mycobacterium Leprae Rapid Test Kit?
Hansen’s Disease, commonly known as leprosy, is a chronic infectious disease that has plagued humanity for centuries. Despite significant advancements in medical science, it continues to affect millions of people around the world. With the goal of early detection and effective management, the development of diagnostic tools has played a crucial role in combating this ancient affliction. Read along to learn more about Hansen’s disease, its symptoms, and how it is detected with the Mycobacterium leprae Rapid Test Kit.
What is Hansen’s Disease?
Leprosy, frequently referred to as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious illness caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. It primarily impacts the layers of skin, nerves, and respiratory mucous membranes. Hansen’s disease is a slow-progressing disorder that might take years to manifest symptoms following infection. It primarily affects the peripheral nerves, resulting in various symptoms such as numbness, loss of sensation, muscle weakness, and skin lesions. In addition, the disease is known for causing deformities and disfigurement, particularly in the hands, feet, and face, due to the loss of sensation and subsequent injuries or infections that go unnoticed.
It is important to note that Hansen’s disease is not highly contagious. It is transmitted through prolonged close contact with an infected person who has not received treatment. It is not easily transmitted through casual contact or respiratory droplets like many other infectious diseases. Hansen’s disease is curable, and treatment is highly effective, particularly when detected and treated in the early stages. Multidrug therapy (MDT) is the standard treatment, which involves a combination of antibiotics. MDT kills the bacteria and prevents the progression of the disease. Efforts to control and eliminate Hansen’s disease have been successful in many parts of the world. Early diagnosis, treatment, and social support are crucial in managing the disease and preventing disabilities. Various organizations and governments work towards raising awareness, reducing stigma, and providing healthcare services to individuals affected by Hansen’s disease.
How does Hansen’s disease Affect Human Health?
Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, can affect human health in several ways. Here are some of the primary impacts of Hansen’s disease on individuals:
Dermatological Effects: Hansen’s disease primarily affects the skin and can cause various skin manifestations. The disease may present as skin lesions, nodules, plaques, or patches that are hypopigmented (lighter in color) or erythematous (reddish). These skin lesions may be insensitive to touch, pain, or temperature, leading to a loss of sensation.
Neurological Effects: One of the distinguishing features of Hansen’s disease is its impact on the peripheral nerves. The bacteria Mycobacterium leprae has an affinity for peripheral nerves, leading to nerve damage. This nerve damage can result in loss of sensation, especially in the extremities, such as the hands and feet. Nerve involvement can also cause muscle weakness, paralysis, and muscle wasting.
Eye Involvement: Hansen’s disease can affect the eyes and lead to various ocular complications. This includes dryness of the eyes, corneal ulcers, and loss of eyebrows or eyelashes. If left untreated, it can cause blindness.
Deformities and Disabilities: Due to the loss of sensation, individuals with Hansen’s disease may unknowingly injure their extremities, leading to repeated trauma and subsequent tissue damage. This can result in deformities, such as claw-like hands or foot drops. In addition, secondary infections can occur, further exacerbating tissue damage and leading to additional disabilities.
Psychological and Social Effects: Hansen’s disease has been historically associated with stigma and discrimination. The visible deformities and misunderstandings surrounding the disease can lead to social isolation, exclusion, and psychological distress for affected individuals. However, efforts to combat stigma and raise awareness have improved over the years.
It is important to note that Hansen’s disease is curable with appropriate treatment. Early diagnosis and multidrug therapy (MDT) can prevent further progression of the disease, reduce disabilities, and reverse some of the symptoms. With proper care, individuals with Hansen’s disease can lead productive lives and participate fully in society.
What are the Symptoms of Hansen’s disease?
Common symptoms present in the different types of Hansen’s disease include:
- Runny nose
- Dry scalp
- Eye problems
- Skin lesions
- Muscle weakness
- Reddish skin
- Smooth, shiny, diffuse thickening of facial skin, ear, and hand
- Loss of sensation in fingers and toes; thickening of peripheral nerves
- Flat nose from the destruction of nasal cartilage
- Changes in phonation and other aspects of speech production .
What is the Mycobacterium leprae Rapid Test Kit?
Mycobacterium leprae rapid test kit is a diagnostic test kit to diagnose Mycobacterium leprae based on lateral flow assay. To stop the spread of leprosy, early detection is essential. A helpful biomarker for identifying multibacillary (MB) patients is an antibody against M. leprae PGL-I . Diagnosis is based on the direct detection of antibodies against M. leprae PGL-I in whole blood and serum samples from an area of high endemicity. This test detects antibodies to PGL-I and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The rapid test kit is a quick and simple approach for finding immunoglobulin M antibodies to M. leprae PGL-I. The test is reliable and ideal for usage in tropical regions because it doesn’t need specialized equipment or reagents, and they’re extremely stable . Unfortunately, although a test kit is made with certain studies, there is no widely available “leprosy rapid test kit” on the market. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is typically diagnosed through clinical examination, evaluation of symptoms, and laboratory tests such as skin biopsies or smears.
 “Signs and Symptoms | Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) | CDC”. www.cdc.gov. 22 October 2018.
 van Hooij, A., Tjon Kon Fat, E. M., van den Eeden, S. J., Wilson, L., Batista da Silva, M., Salgado, C. G., … & Geluk, A. (2017). Field-friendly serological tests for determination of M. leprae-specific antibodies. Scientific reports, 7(1), 8868.
 Buhrer-Sekula, S., Smits, H. L., Gussenhoven, G. C., Van Leeuwen, J., Amador, S., Fujiwara, T., … & Oskam, L. (2003). Simple and fast lateral flow test for classification of leprosy patients and identification of contacts with high risk of developing leprosy. Journal of clinical Microbiology, 41(5), 1991-1995.
Figure 1: Diana N.J. Lockwood, Saba Lambert. 2020. Pages 558-564. Hunter’s Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases (Tenth Edition). Editor(s): Edward T. Ryan, David R. Hill, Tom Solomon, Naomi E. Aronson, Timothy P. Endy. Elsevier.
Figure 4: Buhrer-Sekula, S., Smits, H. L., Gussenhoven, G. C., Van Leeuwen, J., Amador, S., Fujiwara, T., … & Oskam, L. (2003). Simple and fast lateral flow test for classification of leprosy patients and identification of contacts with high risk of developing leprosy. Journal of clinical Microbiology, 41(5), 1991-1995.