Don't Forget Leprosy: Group Marks 150th Anniversary of Dr. Hansen's Discovery of M. leprae

Dont Forget Leprosy Group Marks 150th Anniversary of Dr Hansens Discovery of M leprae image

Dr. Gerhard Armauer Hansen first observed the causative agent of leprosy at his laboratory in Bergen on Feb. 28, 1873.

The University of Bergen, Norway and Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen's Disease) Initiative will mark the 150th anniversary of Dr. Gerhard Armauer Hansen's discovery of the leprosy bacillus, M. leprae, in 1873. 

They plan to hold an event in Bergen and launch a commemorative webcast on Feb. 28, 2023.

Dr. Gerhard Armauer Hansen first observed the causative agent of leprosy at his laboratory in Bergen on Feb. 28, 1873. His discovery of the M.leprae bacillus was of historic significance, marking the first time that a pathogen had been identified as causing a disease in humans. It also had far-reaching consequences for global health, helping to transform approaches to disease and infection.

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. It is considered to be one of the oldest diseases in human history and references to it are found in the Bible and other ancient texts. Before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted case-finding activities, some 200,000 new cases were being reported annually. Until Dr. Hansen's discovery, leprosy was often regarded as a divine punishment or a curse. Its disfiguring effects caused fear and those it affected were isolated and shunned.  

The first breakthrough in treatment emerged in the 1940s, but it wasn't until the 1980s—some 100 years after Hansen's discovery—that an effective cure became available in the form of multidrug therapy.

But old images of leprosy remain deep-rooted, and the disease is still marked by social stigma. In some parts of the world, persons affected by leprosy face discrimination and restricted opportunities for education, employment and social participation. Meanwhile, fear of stigma may prevent those who suspect they have the disease from seeking treatment, leading their condition to worsen and inviting further discrimination.

In some countries, leprosy is known today as Hansen's disease, in an effort to distance the disease from the negative associations of the term leprosy.

Among the speakers at the event giving their perspectives on the past, present and future of leprosy will be Mayor of Bergen Linn Kristin Engø, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei Sasakawa, Dr. Hansen's great-grandson Abbi Patrix, persons affected by leprosy from Brazil and Ghana, and experts from the university and city.

Their remarks, along other presentations on topics including the history of leprosy in Norway, the Bergen Leprosy Archives and Dr. Hansen's legacy today, will be featured in the webcast. Both the physical event and webcast are scheduled to include video messages from WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ethiopia Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse.

.An international symposium on leprosy to be held in Bergen on June 21-22, 2023 as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration of Dr. Hansen's discovery also comes under the campaign.

Facebook Comments


We’re glad to see you’re enjoying PracticalDermatology…
but how about a more personalized experience?

Register for free