Armadillos can carry leprosy

Armadillos can carry leprosy

Armadillos are the only animal confirmed to carry leprosy.

But don’t worry, at least 95% of people who contract leprosy (Mycobacterium leprae) don’t develop the disease because their immune system knows how to fight off the infection.

In 2016, 214,783 cases of leprosy were reported, 80% of which were in India.

Leprosy is not very contagious. Even after contact with the bacteria most people do not contract leprosy and health care workers often work for many years with people who have leprosy without contracting the disease.

Red squirrels also carry leprosy. In 2014 scientists noticed that some red squirrels in Scotland had lesions and deformed noses, arms and ears. They discovered that they were suffering from a form of leprosy. They don’t know how they contracted the disease but they did find the buried remains of a medieval leprosy victim only 70kms away and speculate that the squirrels contracted the disease from human remains and have been carrying it ever since.

Bonus fact: Prairie dogs carry the bubonic plague. Fleas from prairie dogs can pass to pet dogs and then to humans. The bubonic plague (known as the Black Death) once killed 60% of the European population but now only a few people catch it every year and it can easily be cured by antibiotics.