Article & Link: In India, a Renewed Fight Against Leprosy (The New York Times; April 17, 2019)
Summary: Leprosy, which is caused by Mycobacterium leprae has been eliminated throughout most of the world. However, it is still a huge problem in India, which currently has 60% of all leprosy cases in the world. This is largely due to the stigma against people with leprosy in India, who are not allowed to have jobs or even be in public if they have the disease. This means people with leprosy won’t seek help if they have leprosy, which causes nerve and muscle damage if it isn’t treated. However, there are some doctors in India who are trying to educate people better on leprosy to treat as many people as possible and hopefully prevent its further spread in India.
Connections: We were recently learning about pathogens in class. Leprosy, or Mycobacterium leprae causes a bacterial disease which affects nerves and muscles. The article mentioned that the bacterium is not culturable which prevents understanding of the disease. This explains why scientists don’t yet understand how the disease spreads. It sometimes spreads in a seemingly random way, infecting some people but not others. Furthermore, people can carry the disease for decades, spreading it to other people without realizing they are carriers.
Critical Analysis: I found the discussion about non-culturable pathogenic bacteria very interesting, because most of the examples we learned about in class were discovered and treated through culturing. It is also interesting to see how stigma and misinformation prevents treatable diseases from being eliminated. I learned a lot about how India’s culture regarding leprosy by reading this article. Many people hide it, potentially risking the health of those around them. Others go to leprosy colonies, or secluded communities, surviving by begging and helping each other. From what I could tell this article appeared to be scientifically accurate and not misleading. I feel like the writing is both accessible and informational to general audiences. It explains what leprosy is, the common symptoms, and why it’s such a big problem in India. I think it also did a good job explaining why leprosy is hard to study (mentioning its non-culturable, explaining it can’t be found by blood tests, and talking about how people can be carriers for decades) to people who may not have a lot of previous microbiology background.
Question: How should/do doctors and scientists study non-culturable bacterial species? Especially those species that are pathogenic?