Leprosy (Hansen's disease) is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium (M.) leprae, and primarily affects the skin and the peripheral nerve. Although M. leprae are weak in its infectious potency, leprosy has been feared because of the accompanying visible disfigurement and functional defects. In Japan, leprosy patients had been forcedly isolated in leprosaria for 100 years based on the Law for Prevention of Leprosy. Although the Law has been repealed in 1996, most of the patients are already too old to live apart from leprosaria. Nowadays, only few Japanese patients newly occur, whereas 700,000 leprosy patients are still added worldwide per year, mostly in the developing countries.
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Published online: July 12, 2010
Accepted: November 4, 2008
Received: October 9, 2008
© 2008 Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.