Mycobacterium leprae-induced nerve damage: direct and indirect mechanisms.
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. This disease is characterized by skin and peripheral nerve trunk damage. The mechanisms responsible for the observed nerve damage in leprosy could be directly related to the ability of M. leprae to infect Schwann cells, leading to triggering of signaling events. Therefore, we hypothesize that in response to M. leprae infection, activation of the Notch signaling pathway in Schwann cells could play a crucial role in glial cell dedifferentiation. On the other hand, nerve damage evidenced in this disease may be additionally explained by indirect mechanisms such as the immune response and genetic susceptibility of the host. The understanding of the mechanisms leading to nerve damage induced by M. leprae infection will allow us to generate valuable tools for the early detection of leprosy as well as for the mitigation of the effects of this disabling disease.