Leprosy in Red Squirrels

Here’s an odd story from last week’s i paper:

“Red squirrels in the UK and Ireland carry strains of leprosy similar to those that have afflicted disability and disfigurement on humans for centuries, a study has shown.

Experts stress the chances of catching the disease from a squirrel are extremely low.

Scientists tested DNA samples from 25 red squirrels on Brownsea Island, Dorset, and found every one was infected with a strain of leprosy bacteria similar to that recovered from the skeleton of a leprosy victim buried 730 years ago in Winchester – just 43 miles away.

Other red squirrels from Scotland Ireland and the Isle of Wight were carrying another kind of leprosy bacteria closely related to a virulent form of human leprosy endemic in Mexico and the Caribbean.”

I had no idea leprosy existed in the Americas. The bacteria is a very slow growing so long exposure to it seems to be required to contract it.

5 thoughts on “Leprosy in Red Squirrels

  1. How strange. I knew that there had been problems in the red squirrel population with leprosy, but the link with a 730 yr old human death from the disease is extraordinary. And what to make of the link between leprosy in S Ireland and the Isle of Wight (seems odd for a start that they should be linked) and Central America?


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