Growth and development of children of mothers with leprosy and healthy controls.
INTRODUCTION: In the pre-sulphone and early sulphone years children of leprous parents had been followed in a few prospective studies to observe the development of leprosy. No studies were made of the growth and development of these children.
METHODS: A prospective, open-ended, cohort study began in 1975 with follow-up of both mothers and their children until 2003. 156 pregnancies were studied consisting of 36 non-leprous (NL), 25 tuberculoid and borderline tuberculoid leprosy (TT&BT) (released-from-treatment), 18 with TT&BT (active), 42 borderline lepromatous leprosy (BL) and 35 lepromatous leprosy (LL).
RESULTS: Babies of mothers with leprosy had lower birth weight, smaller placentae, grew more slowly, had more infections and higher infant mortality than those of non-leprous mothers. The findings were most marked in babies of LL mothers. Growth in childhood was uneventful, infants of LL mothers catching up by age 3.6 years. Childhood infections were common in all groups but more serious for children of lepromatous mothers. The puberty skeletal growth spurt, and, for the girls, menarche was delayed for children studied compared with a new healthy control group, with catch-up by late teens. These findings were most marked in children of lepromatous, especially LL, mothers.
CONCLUSION: Impaired growth in utero and infancy is probably due to immunological factors but we could find no explanation for the delayed growth in adolescent children of LL mothers.