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Multibacillary leprosy with an incubation period exceeding 50 years
  1. Michael Taggart1,
  2. Albert Kelly1,
  3. Rick Stell2 and
  4. Eric Chu2
  1. 1Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Taggart; michael.taggart{at}


Leprosy is a chronic granulomatous infection predominantly involving the skin and peripheral nervous system. The condition is caused by infection with the obligate intracellular bacillus Mycobacterium leprae and the clinical phenotype is largely dependent on the host immune response to the organism. Transmission is suspected to occur via respiratory secretions with infection usually requiring prolonged periods of contact. The incubation period is highly variable with disease manifestations appearing up to several decades after the initial exposure. The disease can be broadly divided into ‘paucibacillary’ and ‘multibacillary’, and treatment with multidrug therapy including dapsone, clofazimine and rifampicin offers high rates of cure. Here, we report of a case of leprosy with a suspected incubation period in excess of 50 years following occupational exposure in rural Australia. To our knowledge, this incubation period is the longest reported to date.

  • Infectious diseases
  • Infection (neurology)
  • Peripheral nerve disease
  • Dermatology
  • Disability

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  • Contributors MT drafted the initial manuscript. AK, RS and EC reviewed and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Case reports provide a valuable learning resource for the scientific community and can indicate areas of interest for future research. They should not be used in isolation to guide treatment choices or public health policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.