Essay | Leprosy in the 12th and 21st century | Conclusion

The following parts of my essay have my own copyright in formulation of words, opinions and otherwise sources are mentioned.

The past couple of weeks I have followed the History of Healthcare course as an elective course to broaden my knowledge.
We had to give a presentation about a free chosen subject. I chose to give a presentation about the ‘Antiquity and the Olympics | Medicine in the pre Hippocratic Era’.
And as a final product I chose to write an essay about ‘Leprosy in the 12th and 21st century’.

For these blog posts I will divide my essay into four parts: ‘Introduction’, ‘What is Leprosy?’, ‘Leprosy in the 12th century‘, ‘Leprosy in the 21st century and a conclusion part’.

Greetings by Sophie


In this conclusion I point out again the several little topics that are discussed and the main information that summarizes the comparison between leprosy in the 12th century and leprosy in the 21st century. From the 12th century we can conclude that the term ‘Mycobacterium leprae’ was already known and the leprosy disease was accepted as a serious and contagious disease. The bacillus is aerobic, protected by fat, acid-fast, intercellular and pathogenic. The bacteria is contagious as well and can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing. The leprosy disease is divided into the extreme named ‘Tuberculoid leprosy’ and into the extreme named ‘Lepromatous leprosy’. This last extreme is the most aggressive and evolves quickly by multiplying itself. The human that is infected with this variant of the disease a larger lesion and worse prognosis than a human that is infected with the lighter variant of the disease.

Not all symptoms of the leprosy disease are visible. Such as muscle atrophy and articular deformities or paralysis of the limbs or an early stage of blindness. The visual symptoms are the loss of limbs, chronical wounds on the skin, facial malformations and deformities of the limbs and an advanced stage of blindness. The leprosy disease is spread gradually through the Western and Eastern world since the Roman Empire has fallen. It was misunderstood that it was widely spread by the crusades of the Middle Ages. Humans that were infected by the leprosy disease, were isolated from their environment and gathered in a lazar house. This was also commonly known as ‘house of the living death’ because there was no cure.

What caused the disease was not exactly known during the Middle Ages. But we can conclude that thanks to Galen we know that black bile and the other three humors, had something to do with it. The physicians of the Middle Ages designed a table that divided the leprosy disease into four divisions with their own look-a-like animal effect, humor and the visible symptoms. They knew already that black bile had something to do with it and Galen knew that it spread throughout the body, but not equally. Superstition was during the twelfth century common and it is a miracle that physicians were searching for a cause that was not natural. The infection disease leprosy was widely accepted as a disease you should care about and take into account as a serious illness. The Black Plague was associated with leprosy, but leprosy exists already for over 2000 years and the Black Plague occurred in the 14th century. Christianity believes that Jesus Christ has healed a leper.

In the 21st century leprosy is still widely spread around the world. But the disease is not that common anymore. And more important: we can cure completely with the right treatment. This treatment is a taking a combination of antibiotics for several days. Due to those antibiotics, the bacillus of leprosy will die but will still be present in the human for several years after the treatment. When the treatment is stopped too early, the human could relive the illness. Leprosy is nowadays also known as the ‘Hansen’s disease’ and the NHDP reports that between 150 and 200 human leprosy victims are reported in the United States of America. A recent report is the leprosy of a school child in California, September 2016. This number would be much higher if humans were not cured that often for several issues with antibiotics. More commonly known is the situation of the third-world countries and their chance to completely cure from the leprosy disease. This is why we still find pictures and see real people now and then in the Western world, by the reports that are made about those places.

Today we can also examine skeletons with the help of the ‘Whole Genome Amplification’ method to extract the DNA of skeletons and multiply it for a thorough investigation and diagnostic conclusion. It is also discovered that the bacillus of the leprosy disease multiplies circa once every two weeks. Because of the early and more precise diagnoses about this infection disease, it is not common anymore that the prognosis will be that you will die or lose complete limbs. It is hard to control the disease and the slow outbreak of it completely. A person with leprosy can have the bacteria already for years and spreading it all along before the symptoms more aware occur to the infected person. The bacteria of leprosy multiplies itself every two weeks so it takes time before the infected person realises it has passed the beginning stadium of the disease. Because when a bacteria multiplies itself it grows for example from one hundred to two hundred to four hundred bacillus.

With this essay and with this conclusion I hope that I have written a clear and short overview about the contagious infection disease named ‘leprosy’ which was to manifolding during the Middle Ages and can nowadays be completely cured thanks precise investigations with microbiology and treatment with several antibiotics. I hope that I have broadened your knowledge about the contagious infection disease leprosy and that I have made you aware of that it can be spread easily, can happen to anyone in the world and that there is one remedy: early diagnosis and an antibiotics treatment.

If you happen to meet someone one day with leprosy, help that human because it is so easily and it will prevent the human from dying of leprosy, becoming disabled and it gives that human a happier life, a human who is not isolated from his or her family forever.

One thought on “Essay | Leprosy in the 12th and 21st century | Conclusion

  1. […] Essay | Leprosy in the 12th and 21st century | Conclusion This is the last blog post of a series about leprosy. For a course, at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, named ‘History of Health Care’ I wrote this essay as part of a final assignment. The subject, general knowledge and impact of leprosy is underestimated. I have learned a lot about it by writing this essay. […]

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