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Revista de Salud Pública

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MELENDEZ, Esperanza; FUENTES, Jairo  and  RODRIGUEZ, Gerzaín. Conjugal leprosy. Rev. salud pública [online]. 2006, vol.8, suppl.1, pp.24-32. ISSN 0124-0064.

Objectives Determining the occurrence of leprosy amongst couples and establishing the type of leprosy in index and secondary cases. Methods The characteristics of leprosy were studied between 1980 and 2000 in Atlántico Department located on the Colombian Caribbean Coast. Clinical histories of patients registered in the Leprosy Control Programme were reviewed. Clinical exams were performed and personal interviews carried out with couples suffering from leprosy. Results Twenty-six married couples were found to be suffering from leprosy, representing 5,4 % of leprosy cases detected during the study period. They were aged from 20 to 89. 65,4 % of the index cases were men and 22 (84,6 %) were multibacillary, lepromatous cases; two had indeterminate leprosy and two were suffering from tuberculoid leprosy. Sixty-one percent of the secondary cases were paucibacillary patients, 42 % of them being tuberculoid. No paucibacillary cases were associated with multibacillary leprosy in the couples. Only two couples had consanguinity. None of the couples had had leprosy at the time of being married. The time between leprosy being detected in index cases and the disease being detected in secondary patients varied from 5 to 40 years. Disabilities were more common in the feet and to a higher degree in lepromatous index cases who had had the disease for a longer time than the secondary cases because these were more frequently paucibacillary patients who had a disease having shorter evolution. Conclusions In spite of ongoing, prolonged contact, conjugal leprosy is not frequent and requires several years to develop in the second person. Lepromatous leprosy in index cases was more frequently associated with leprosy in the couple. When the primary case was paucibacillary, no multibacillary leprosy occurred in the secondary case.

Keywords : leprosy; transmission; Colombia; Caribbean Coast.

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