Former armadillo hunter has leprosy 30 years after he used to trap the creatures

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A former armadillo hunter who used to sell the mammals to scientists researching leprosy has been diagnosed with the illness himself.

The 58-year-old went to hospital after living for five months with a growing patch of raised, red skin on the inside of his elbow which was becoming numb.

Doctors in Florida first thought the man, who described himself as outdoorsy, had been bitten by an insect or small creature, and sent him home.

But eight months later his skin still hadn't healed and he returned, for medics to find out he had the rare nerve-damaging disease.

It was then that he told them he used to catch armadillos when he was younger – around 30 years ago.

The animals are known to be one of the main sources of leprosy-causing bacteria in the US. 

The unnamed 58-year-old went to doctors complaining of this patch of red, raised skin on the inside of his elbow which was at first thought to be a reaction to an animal bite

The unnamed 58-year-old went to doctors complaining of this patch of red, raised skin on the inside of his elbow which was at first thought to be a reaction to an animal bite

The bacteria which cause leprosy are known to be found in armadillos in the US, and the man admitted to having trapped and sold them when he was younger (stock image)

The bacteria which cause leprosy are known to be found in armadillos in the US, and the man admitted to having trapped and sold them when he was younger (stock image)

The unidentified man had in the past been tested for Lyme disease and it had come back negative, so he was treated for an insect bite.

But the nerves in the patch on his arm were becoming damaged and he said he had increasing numbness and occasional shocking pain.

Baffled doctors suggested causes of his problem could be a fungal infection, the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis or even cancer, they said in BMJ Case Reports.

There are around 200,000 new cases of leprosy – aka Hansen's disease – diagnosed each year, with most of them in India, Brazil and Indonesia.

WHAT IS LEPROSY?

Leprosy is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.

The illness is renowned for being extremely slow to develop. The bacteria reproduce slowly and people may not develop symptoms for decades after being exposed.

The average time is around five years, but some people may not develop signs for more than 20 years after coming into contact with the bacteria.

Symptoms of leprosy include patches of discoloured skin, numbness, muscle weakness, eye problems, a blocked nose and nosebleeds and ulcers on the soles of the feet. 

More than 200,000 people are thought to be diagnosed with the disease worldwide, with 60 per cent of cases in India. Brazil and Indonesia also have relatively large numbers of infections, while the rest are scattered around the

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