WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Ohio doctors report they got a diagnostic surprise when an HIV patient tested positive for the bacterium that causes leprosy.
What was even more surprising was that the initial infection most likely occurred decades earlier, from exposure to an armadillo.
Soon after starting treatment for the HIV infection, the Ohio man developed lesions on his skin that didn't respond to antibiotic treatment. His doctors eventually confirmed that the lesions were caused by Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, an infection more commonly known as leprosy.
"With the way he presented, typically, any clinician would think of an infection with bacteria, and that's what we were thinking, but he was not responding to regular antibiotic treatment," said Dr. Madhuri Sopirala, the lead author of a letter on the unusual case in the Oct. 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
And, it was his failure to respond to antibiotic treatment that prompted his physicians to look for less common reasons for the man's condition.
Leprosy, which is also called Hansen's disease, is quite uncommon in the United States. In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, just 150 people contracted Hansen's disease in the United States, according to the National Hansen's Disease Program. The majority of these cases occurred in California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.
The main symptom of the disease is skin lesions that may be raised or flat, light-colored or pigmented, and there may be no feeling within the skin lesion. The disease can only be diagnosed through a skin biopsy, and long-term treatment with antibiotics is effective when started early.
People who live in Texas or Louisiana are more likely to contract Hansen's disease, as are people who've traveled to parts of the world where leprosy is sti
All rights reserved