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Half a Century in Hiding: A Unique Case of Tuberculoid Leprosy with an Unprecedented Incubation Period


Background: Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a neglected tropical disease with low prevalence in the United States. The disease’s long incubation period can cause delayed presentation, and most affected individuals have a history of travel or work in leprosy-endemic regions. The immune response to Mycobacterium leprae determines the clinical characteristics of leprosy, with tuberculoid leprosy being characterized by well-defined granulomas and involvement of peripheral nerves. The recommended treatment is a combination of dapsone and rifampin for 12 months.

Case Report: A 78-year-old man with a history of extensive travel to Africa and Asia 50 years ago, presented with a non-tender, non-pruritic, and hypopigmented skin lesion on his left knee. Biopsy results confirmed granulomatous inflammation and the presence of Mycobacterium leprae, leading to a diagnosis of tuberculoid/paucibacillary leprosy. The patient received dapsone and rifampin treatment, which resulted in symptom improvement.

Conclusions: The patient’s long incubation period of 50 years between exposure and symptom onset is remarkable and possibly one of the longest reported for tuberculoid leprosy. It emphasizes the importance of considering leprosy in cases with an extensive travel history and long incubation periods. Our patient’s case presented contradictory staining results, suggesting potential sampling variation or a rare mixed leprosy form. Based on his clinical findings, he was diagnosed with tuberculoid leprosy. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent irreversible nerve damage and improve patient outcomes. Healthcare providers should be vigilant in acquiring a detailed travel history to facilitate early diagnosis and appropriate management of leprosy cases.

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Journal Article
Rajani A. J
Raval D. M
Chitale R. A
Kempaiah P
Elwasila S. M
Durvasula R
Oring J.