What is leprosy in children?
Leprosy in children is a chronic benign infectious disease caused by mycobacterium. It mainly affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves. It is a major public health problem in many developing countries despite effective treatment. Leprosy was universally “eliminated as a public health problem” 18 years ago, although new cases continue to appear in local areas and 9 out of 100 new cases diagnosed today are children.
The current scenario is illustrated by doctor, team leader of the World Health Organization (WHO) global leprosy control program. “The world has the tools, the right drugs, and the political will, but I can’t detect this disease early, especially in children. Children are considered to be the most susceptible group to infection with leprosy. Due to their immature or new immune system and exposure to intra-family contact.
Leprosy in children can be a big masquerade and misdiagnosed as an asymptomatic hypopigmented patch on the face or hands, spreading to infiltrates all over the skin and causing neurological symptoms such as sensory loss or muscle weakness. Therefore, in areas where leprosy is still prevalent, it should be not only dermatologists but also physicians/neurologists/pediatricians involved in the medical care of children and adolescents who are under differential diagnosis. In the absence of an effective vaccine, early diagnosis and treatment are needed to prevent deformities and disabilities and reduce the physical, psychological, and financial burden of the disease.
Causes of leprosy in children
Leprosy in children is primarily mycobacterium, a slow-growing rod-shaped bacillus, an intracellular bacterium (which only grows inside some human and animal cells). M. leprosy is known as the “acid-fast” bacteria due to its chemical properties.
When medical professionals use special dyes for microscopic analysis, it turns red on a blue background due to the mycolic acid content in its cell walls. Joel-Nielsen Stein is an example of a special staining technique used to view acid-fast organisms under a microscope.
Currently, organisms cannot be grown in artificial media. Bacteria take a long time to reproduce in cells (around 12 to 14 days compared to a few minutes to hours for most bacteria). Bacteria thrive best at 80.9 F-86 F, so cold areas of the body can develop an infection.
Bacteria thrive on macrophages (a type of immune system cell) and Schwann cells (cells that cover and protect nerve axons). M. leprosy is genetically related to M. tuberculosis (the type of bacteria that causes tuberculosis) and other mycobacteria that infect humans. They are diseases related to leprosy.
With malaria, leprosy patients produce anti-endothelial antibodies (antibodies against the tissues that line the blood vessels), but the role of these antibodies in these diseases is still being studied.
In 2009, researchers discovered a new species of mycobacterium, M. lepromatosis, which causes a contagious disease (lepromatous leprosy). Considered one of the tropical diseases, this new species (determined by genetic analysis) has been found in patients in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Symptoms of leprosy in children
Leprosy in children primarily affects the skin and nerves outside the brain and spinal cord called peripheral nerves. It can also affect the fine tissue inside the eyes and nose. The main symptom of leprosy is deformed skin sores, lumps, or lumps that go away after several weeks or months. The skin lesions are pale in color.
Nerve damage can cause:
- Loss of sensation in the arms and legs
- Muscular weakness
It usually takes 3 to 5 years for symptoms to appear after contact with bacteria that cause leprosy. Some people do not develop symptoms until after 20 years. The time between contact with bacteria and the onset of symptoms is called the incubation period. The long incubation period of leprosy makes it very difficult for doctors to determine when and where a person with leprosy is infected.
Diagnosis of leprosy in children
Leprosy in children can be diagnosed by the appearance of patches of skin that are lighter or darker in color than normal skin. Sometimes the affected skin areas can become red. Loss of sensation is common in these skin patches. You may not feel light touch or hit with the needle.
To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will look for bacteria under a microscope under a sample of your skin or nerve (via skin or nerve biopsy) also perform tests to rule out other skin conditions.
Treatment for leprosy in children
Leprosy in children can be cured. In the last two decades, 16 million people have been cured of leprosy. The World Health Organization provides free treatment to all people with leprosy. Treatment depends on the type of leprosy you have. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.
Long-term treatment with two or more antibiotics is recommended, usually six months to a year. People with severe leprosy may need to take antibiotics for longer. Antibiotics cannot treat nerve damage.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to control nerve pain and damage associated with leprosy. This may include steroids, such as prednisone.
Patients with leprosy may also be given thalidomide, strong medicine that suppresses the body’s immune system. It helps to treat skin nodules from leprosy. Thalidomide is known to cause serious and life-threatening birth defects and should never be taken by pregnant women or pregnant women.
Department to consult for this condition
- Department of dermatology