The armadillo as an animal model and reservoir host for Mycobacterium leprae
Apart from humans, armadillos are the only known natural hosts of Mycobacterium leprae. They are well developed as hosts for in vivo propagation of M leprae and are advancing as models for studying the pathogenesis of leprosy and translational research. Armadillos are immunologically intact. They exhibit the full Ridley-Jopling spectrum of histopathologic responses to M leprae and uniquely manifest extensive neurological involvement that closely recapitulates human leprosy. In addition, free-ranging armadillos in some regions are known to harbor a naturally occurring infection with M leprae, and zoonotic transmission between armadillos and humans has been implicated in a large number of new case presentations. We review the role of the armadillo as a model for leprosy and reservoir for human infection.