A new strain of Mycobacterium leprae, capable of causing leprosy, has been found and is being spread by armadillos. The nine-banded armadillo has been found to contain a different strain of M. leprae (3I-2-v15) and has been spreading across the southern United States. A CDC report shows that among 52 people infected with leprosy, 22 of them have been transmitted by armadillos.
However, actual zoonotic transmission of the disease from armadillos to humans is rare and will only usually occur to people who frequently come into contact with armadillos or frequent areas populated by armadillos.
Dr. David Scollard, the director of the National Hansen’s Disease Program Laboratory Research Branch, states that this discovery is not a cause for concern as “most people are immune to becoming infected with Hansen’s disease, and most armadillos don’t have the bacteria that can cause it”.
Despite this, this could prove to be a probable threat in the future because if more animals start to become carriers of the disease, we might see increasing numbers of leprosy cases being reported.