We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.

The full article is available here as HTML.

Press Ctrl-C to copy

At least 2 million people worldwide are afflicted with leprosy, yet very little is known about the pathogenesis of the disease, which attacks the nerves of the hands, feet and face and, if left untreated can take away the ability to move fingers, toes and eyelids.

Researchers have assumed that the vigorous immune response that follows infection by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria that cause leprosy is what leads to the nerve damage in patients.

Instead, Anura Rambukkana from the Rockefeller University in New York and colleagues have found that the bacteria directly cause the nerve damage. M. leprae infects a certain type of so-called Schwann cells, which help protect and support the nerve cells.

Because some Schwann cells proliferate in response to nerve injury, the authors propose that M. leprae damages nerves in order to generate more cells to occupy.

The findings — published in the 3 May issue of Science — may open the door to new ways to treat the disease.

Reference: Science 296, 927 (2002)

Related topics