Frequently Asked Questions about Leprosy

Belen L Dofitas, MD & Gemma Cabanos, MD


Leprosy is a long-standing infection of the nerves which also affects the skin.


Leprosy is caused by bacteria, mainly by Mycobacterium leprae and sometimes by Mycobacterium lepromatosis. It was first seen under the microscope by a Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Amauer Hansen. That’s why it is sometimes called Hansen’s Disease.

How is it transmitted?

M. leprae is spread via droplets that are inhaled by others when an untreated Person With Leprosy (PWL) coughs or sneezes. However, the patient stops being infectious within a month after the start of treatment.

Do fingers and toes of PWLs fall off?

No, fingers and toes do not fall off.  M. leprae attacks the bones and nerves, leading to bone loss (bone resorption) and weak bones. Leprosy also destroys the ability to feel pain. Without pain to warn them, PWLs may injure themselves. Repeated injuries lead to the dreaded deformities and disabilities.

I met a man with leprosy on the street. Will I get infected?

No. It is not easy to get leprosy. About 95% of the world’s population has a natural immunity against the disease. For those who do not have weak immunity against M. leprae, they must be exposed to the germ for long periods of time before they develop the disease.  Leprosy bacteria are slow-growing and it may take a few years or more before full-blown illness develops.

Is leprosy hereditary?

Leprosy is not hereditary. It is the susceptibility to the disease (the inability to fight the leprosy germs) that is passed on to children. In families where a parent has or had leprosy, it is likely that one or more of the children are susceptible. If the parent does not seek treatment, the susceptible children may get infected.

Is leprosy curable?

Yes, with Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT)! It is a combination of three of the following drugs: Rifampicin, Clofazimine, Dapsone. MDT is taken for six months (for the mild type or Paucibacillary leprosy), or one year (for the severe or Multibacillary type). MDT is available FREE in health centers all over the country. Millions of leprosy patients have been cured all over the world since dapsone was first used for treatment after World War II. Persons affected by leprosy can lead productive lives with our support.


Yes! Now, there is a way to reduce the chance of infection among close contacts of a leprosy patient — through Leprosy Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (LPEP). Please contact your health center or dermatologist for more information and how to avail of LPEP.  

Reference: Prevention of Leprosy.

The social stigma and discrimination caused by leprosy are the worst problems, often lasting a lifetime even when the patient is fully treated already and not infectious anymore. We should all remember that LEPROSY IS CURABLE just like other infections. Let us treat persons affected by leprosy with respect and compassion.

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