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You can bake them or barbecue them, but most of us think of armadillos as road kill.
But it turns out that they're also good for something else: armadillos spread leprosy.
Until recently, researchers believed that leprosy could only spread via human to human contact, though they were also aware that armadillos are the only nonhuman animal susceptible to the bacterial infection.
Curious about whether armadillos spread leprosy to humans, a research team in Louisiana compared the DNA of leprosy bacteria from armadillos to that which has infected a group of patients in the southern United States.
The bacteria matched.
While armadillos spread leprosy to humans, it's unlikely that you will be infected.
The U.S. sees about 150 cases of leprosy a year, reports Bloomberg. But the majority of those can be traced to overseas travel in regions where the disease is more prevalent.
As for the hard-backed carriers, about 20% of the armadillo population in the South carries leprosy, but according to the Los Angeles Times, only 5% of the human population is even susceptible. Plus, the disease is easily treatable via antibiotics.
Even so, it's important to understand how you can contact leprosy from armadillos.
People who work with, hunt, or play with wild armadillos are at a higher risk for contracting leprosy. The bacteria can be transmitted through contact with blood and tissue, so it's necessary to take remedial precautions.
Also keep in mind that leprosy often takes years to fully manifest, allowing it to wreak unknown havoc on your body for quite some time.
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