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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
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Hansen's Disease Laboratory Research

The National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Research Program at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge conducts and supports research in the causes, diagnosis, prevention and cure of Hansen's disease and tuberculosis — aimed at the global elimination of Hansen's disease (leprosy).

This research has led to the development and implementation of many of the newer sophisticated cell and molecular biology tools used today to study human disease. It plays an integral role in the quest for a more complete understanding of Hansen's disease and translation of basic research findings into an internationally coordinated program designed to improve prevention and treatment.

The Laboratory Research program has unique expertise in the propagation of Mycobacterium leprae and unique resources, including the only colony of M. leprae-infected armadillos in the world.

The National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Research Program comprises 23 individuals, including seven investigators from multiple scientific disciplines.

Current Research


  • multiple clinical isolates and laboratory strains of M. leprae
  • conventional and transgenic "knock-out" mouse colonies
  • athymic (nu/nu) mice infected with different strains of M. leprae
  • armadillo colony of 120 animals infected with M. leprae


  • Histopathological classification of Hansen's disease (leprosy) for U.S. physicians
  • Adjunct molecular tests for verifying the presence of M. leprae in tissues and mutation analysis of M. leprae DNA to identify drug-resistant strains
  • Provision of viable M. leprae bacilli to qualified researchers worldwide
    • Mouse (nu/nu)-derived highly viable M. leprae
    • Armadillo-derived M. leprae
  • Specialty services related to mouse foot pad testing


  • approximately 20,000 square feet of modern laboratory and animal care space
  • access to Louisiana State University 's core facilities for proteomics and genomics, FACS analysi
  • Biosafety Level III laboratory available for work with tuberculosis, which is caused a bacillus in the same bacterial family as M. leprae

Tuberculosis Research

State-of-the-art facilities and mycobacterial expertise enables the Research Program to also conduct extramurally-funded tuberculosis research aimed at learning more about mycobacterial pathogenesis as it informs our understanding of M. leprae virulence and Hansen's disease (leprosy) pathogenesis.

Over the past 10 years the National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Research Program was been involved in a now-completed National Institutes of Health-supported tuberculosis drug discovery project testing the efficacy of approximately 100,000 synthetic drug extracts from the National Cancer Institute and pharmaceutical house repositories, and natural products from developing countries. 

New, smaller focused drug discovery projects are planned, working with partners such as the TB Global Alliance and the National Institutes of Health, evaluating approximately 10,000 compounds each year fortheir potential development as anti-tuberculosis drugs.