Every year, about 150 Americans are diagnosed with leprosy, a disease that disfigures the skin and affects the nervous system. Two-thirds of these people pick it up while traveling overseas, but the source of the remaining third has long been a mystery. Where did these patients, most of them from Texas and Louisiana, catch leprosy?

Research published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine points strongly to an unlikely source — the armadillo…

This discovery has led some to compare leprosy to other infectious diseases that leaped from animals to humans. Many speculate that flu came from water fowl, and it’s pretty well-established that HIV came from chimpanzees. But with leprosy, the opposite is true. We infected them.

Truman says there was no leprosy in the New World until European settlers arrived. Somehow armadillos contracted the disease, and now about 15 percent of armadillos carry it…

The more likely path to infection is by noshing on armadillo. “People become infected because of direct contact with raw armadillo flesh that has been butchered in some way or another,” he says.

In Texas and other southern states, barbecued armadillo and armadillo chili are folk favorites. Avoiding handling and consuming armadillo meat will drastically reduce the already small risk posed by armadillos, Truman says.

I hope those of you inclined to eat armadillo – road kill or otherwise – will be careful.




  1. Animby - just phoning it in says:

    # 29 bobbo, “your typical “medical judgment” that fits everyone into the same pair of boots”

    Not to mention your typical expectation that what sensible people say on this blog requires depth and documentation suitable for a thesis.

    Yes, I generalize because we are taught in medicine (and similarly by Occam’s Razor) that if you hear hoof beats you should be on the lookout for horses not zebras. Though it was the reverse when I lived in Africa.

    As I recall, armadillo poop is fairly miniscule in size and is pretty well hidden in the grass.Geez, they live on worms! You think they’re putting out crap like you the day after the all you can eat Shriner’s banquet?

    Yes there are “outliers” and the disease has been known to occur (after innoculation) in as little as six month. Let me remind you: That is extreme. The other end of extreme is something like 4 decades. Most infections take several years to develop. Would a football player remember falling face first in a miniscule pile of armadillo dung months or years afterwards? Maybe but I reckon since it would not be very memorable, probably not.

    Furthermore, I am not aware of a single scientific study that shows the disease can be transmitted by fecal contact. The normal mode of infection is inhaled aerosol. That means you’re breathing in when a leper is sneezing out. (Hard to sneeze in but…)

    In fact, Bobbo, my dude, for a while when I lived in central Texas, I did have a pair of armadillo boots. But only for riding and I seldom slept on horseback. So no trail rot.

  2. bobbo, change only comes by voting the worse of two parties OUT OF OFFICE says:

    Animby–so you just assume away the variable and report in absolutes? Now, isn’t that special! Why assume Armadillo Shit Piles in Texas are small? Everything in Texas is BIG!!! Irrelevant anyway, I doubt ANYONE who has fallen into a pile of shit regardless of size doesn’t remember it.

    Seems to me when you get tackled you often do a full or partial face plant into the ground. Part of your face is your nose. Nose – Ground – Shit – Breathing! The vector dynamic more likely than not.

    Say Animby, with your Armadillo boots, every hear anyone yell: “Look at that prick on the horse?” They weren’t talking about your boots, but rather what you had in them.

    I read the news ago, about the WHO making the grade, seems they were going to eliminate Leprosy from the planet? It is relatively rare but seemingly well distributed. Must be more than armadillos or are they well distributed as well?

    More things to add to my list of gratefuls: I don’t play team sports, I have a strong immune system===and my car never broke down driving thru Texas.

  3. bobbo, change only comes by voting the worse of two parties OUT OF OFFICE says:

    Animby==”YOU KNOW==you don’t have to write a thesis to change “You just don’t get this disease from on isolated exposure.” to “It’s rare to get this disease from on isolated exposure.”

    Gross and simplistic to ignore the subtleties that are more accurate and take even fewer words? Heh, heh. Is it meaningless like typo’s or does the pyscholinguistics reveal a deeper rooted rhetorical manipulation of external reality? No doubt in my mind at all this affects everything you think, say, and dream about including your political considerations. Yes, its all of the same thing, the same mind in contemplation, defective without the right verbal tools/finesse.

    Oh, my dear. Did I say typo’s were meaningless? How revealing.

    Ha, ha.

  4. Animby - just phoning it in says:

    #32 – Bobbo: “with your Armadillo boots, every hear anyone yell: “Look at that prick on the horse?” They weren’t talking about your boots, but rather what you had in them.” Aw, shucks. You embarrass me. How did you know I have to tuck my prick into my boots? Makes it tough to date these little brown gals. They’ve been known to run away nekkid! Besides, I’m waiting for Sister Mary. I get the feeling she would appreciate my, err, attributes.

    I’m done arguing semantics here. I’m willing to breathe near a pile of armadillo poop for an hour or two to show you it don’t hurt. I am not willing to smear it on my face but that has nothing to do with leprosy.

    I will apologize: I called an epidemiologist friend who tells me he has never heard of a case of leprosy contracted from an armadillo. Then he called me back and admitted he had found an article from 1992 in the International Journal of Leprosy and Mycobacterial Diseases. (1992 Jun;60(2):244-9) wherein the researchers were able to culture out the bacteria that causes Hanson’s Disease. But only in armored rats with “disseminated” disease. So, yes, it’s possible. Still extremely, rarely, negligibly possible.

    How do I know what ‘dillo scat looks like? I lived in central Texas for years. They usually drop one or two little pellets about the size and shape of a small marble. They look like mud and usually have a few insect parts sticking out. Want more?

    “Must be more than armadillos or are they well distributed as well?” To the best of my knowledge, ‘dillos are limited to the Americas but who knows where else they may have been introduced? I’m aware of two other animal vectors: Chimpanzees and some small monkey with a strange name I can remember in Nigeria, IIRC. Doesn’t mean there aren’t others but I haven’t heard of them.

    Dermatologists say there’s is the best profession because your patients almost never die and they almost never get well. I gave up on it as an option when, in my clinical rotation, I had to spend the day squeezing pimples!

    Dinner is calling. Big meal tonight. As I’m leaving tomorrow, they killed a pig for dinner. At least they claim it’s a pig…

  5. foobar says:

    Let’s see. Two states where bible science rules. No correlation there either. Nope none at all.

  6. BobCat7 says:

    Why is this news. My Grandmother told me never to touch an armadillo when I was about six, because they carry leprosy. I have heard this all my life, from several people.

  7. JustTheFacts says:

    IIRC:

    Wasn’t the recent cure for Hansens’ found through animal research? Wasn’t the delay in finding a cure due to the time / difficulty in finding an animal host? Wasn’t the animal found the Armadillo, and didn’t a few escape during the trials?

    Whether or not Hansen’s was in the wild Armadillo population before the escapees brought it there will now never be known.


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