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Hansen's Disease Research

Dr. Richard W. Truman

Dr. Richard W. Truman image.

Chief, Laboratory Research Branch
Head, Microbiology and Epidemology
LSU-SVM, Skip Bertman Drive

Baton Rouge, LA

Our laboratory performs translational research on the Immunology and Epidemiology of leprosy to

  •  benefit early diagnosis of the infection,
  • differentiate susceptible from non-susceptible individuals, and
  • monitor transmission of leprosy in communities.

A principal focus of our laboratory is the elucidation of the nine-banded armadillo as an animal model for leprosy. These animals closely recapitulate the disease seen in man, and are natural hosts of the infection in the wild. They also are the hosts of choice for in vivo propagation of M. leprae, and our armadillo colony is the world's primary source of leprosy research materials.

We conduct basic research to refine our model and to translate new knowledge into the clinical setting. This laboratory has pioneered most of the basic microbiological techniques used in work with viable M. leprae, and collaborates in piloting new therapies and diagnostic tests. We have developed the first reference strains for M. leprae and are using genotypic markers to differentiate geographically diverse isolates in the laboratory, and to assess the transmission of M. leprae infection between animals and humans in different communities.

A major component of our current effort involves describing the mechanisms and sequence involved in the onset of nerve injury caused by M. leprae and determining the pattern and utility of various diagnostic aids to monitor progress of infection or therapy.  In addition, we are actively engaged in studies to describe the efficacy and mode of action of the anti-tuberculosis and other prototype vaccines for prevention or immunotherapy of leprosy using the armadillo model.

Representative Publications

1. Truman R. Leprosy in wild armadillos. Lepr Rev 2005; 76:198-208.

2. Monot M, Honore N, Garnier T, et al. On the origin of leprosy. Science 2005; 308:1040-2.

3. Truman R, Fine PE. 'Environmental' sources of Mycobacterium leprae: issues and evidence. Lepr Rev 2010; 81:89-95.

4. Truman RW, Singh P, Sharma R, et al. Probable zoonotic leprosy in the southern United States. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1626-33.

5. Adams LB, Pena MT, Sharma R, Hagge DA, Schurr E, Truman RW. Insights from animal models on the immunogenetics of leprosy: a review. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2012; 107 Suppl 1:197-208.

6. Truman RW, Ebenezer GJ, Pena MT, et al. The armadillo as a model for peripheral neuropathy in leprosy. ILAR journal / National Research Council, Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources 2014; 54:304-14.