The term "leprosy" is now restricted to a chronic infectious disease caused by Hansen's bacillus, which has a special tendency to involve the skin and the peripheral nerves. This special involvement of the skin and the peripheral nerves produces external symptoms of a coarsely repulsive character, in the main easy of recognition. This is one of the peculiarities that renders leprosy so interesting historically, as even imperfect descriptions by men untrained in clinical observation enable it to be traced back through the ages.
Leprosy, as we now know it, is a well-defined disease with definite and marked symptoms, and a precisely determined cause. This precision, however, is an acquisition of recent years. Previous to the work of Danielssen and the elder Boeck in 1842, the symptomatology of leprosy was not at all fully known. The hazy ideas of the middle ages, and in fact of all previous ages, still persisted.
MONTGOMERY DW. ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE HISTORY OF LEPROSY. JAMA. 1915;LXV(11):927–931. doi:10.1001/jama.1915.02580110013004
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