What is the role of lab studies in the diagnosis of leprosy?

Updated: Aug 24, 2018
  • Author: Darvin Scott Smith, MD, MSc, DTM&H; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Laboratory studies include the following:

  • Skin biopsy, nasal smears, or both are used to assess for acid-fast bacilli using Fite stain. Biopsies should be full dermal thickness taken from an edge of the lesion that appears most active. [13]

  • Serologic assays can be used to detect phenolic glycolipid-1 (specific for M leprae) and lipoarabinomannan (commonly seen in mycobacteria). [13]

  • Molecular probes detect 40-50% of cases missed on prior histologic evaluation. Since probes require a minimum amount of genetic material (ie, 104 DNA copies), they can fail to identify paucibacillary leprosy.

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