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Doctors show link
between AIDS drugs and leprosy infection

Doctors show link
between AIDS drugs and leprosy infection

Medical experts have discovered a potentially catastrophic link between the antiretroviral medication used to treat HIV/AIDS and the activation of a dormant leprosy infection, TheNew York Times reported last week. This has been especially prevalent in patients receiving treatment in developing nations, where inexpensive AIDS treatments are finally just arriving.

Although leprosy is easily treated with antibiotics, treatment often takes an extra toll on those patients who have AIDS. Doctors unfamiliar with the disease often misdiagnose it as arthritis or lupus. And though treatment in major industrial centers like New York and London will remain relatively simple, experts signal an emerging crisis in countries that would be unable to handle a second major disease outbreak.

Though only a dozen cases have been documented thus far in medical literature, the Times reported that AIDS specialists in Brazil, the Caribbean, and other areas said that many of their patients taking antiretrovirals have developed painful facial ulcers or lost feeling in their toes and fingers. This occurs because as the immune system regenerates during treatment, newly produced white blood cells transport the formerly inactive leprosy bacteria to the skin of the face, hands, and feet.

Countries with high rates of leprosy infection include Brazil, Myanmar, Mozambique, and India, a country poised to overtake South Africa as the country with the world's highest HIV infection rate.

"This is just the peak of the iceberg," the Times quoted William Levis, a New York physician who treats leprosy patients, as saying. "It's early in the game. Most physicians don't even think about leprosy, so there's probably much more around than we know." (The Advocate)

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