Hansen's disease (leprosy). Diagnosis by aspiration biopsy of lymph nodes.
A 61-year-old male native of Mexico presented with generalized enlargement of lymph nodes. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy established lepromatous leprosy as the cause of the lymphadenopathy. The cytologic findings included abundant, frequently multinucleated histiocytes (globus cells), the cytoplasm of which showed multiple vacuoles; cytoplasmic membrane-bound vacuoles were seen free in the background. The vacuoles contained large numbers of acid-fast bacilli. Globus cells, while characteristic, are not specific for Mycobacterium leprae infection and are seen in certain atypical mycobacterioses in immunodeficient patients. This appears to be the first report of lymphadenopathy due to lepromatous leprosy in which the diagnosis was made by FNA biopsy. The immunologic spectrum of leprosy is correlated with clinical and pathologic findings, and the need to remember infectious processes in evaluating lymphadenopathy and the value of reserving air-dried and alcohol-fixed smears for special stains are emphasized.