, Volume 250, Issue 7, pp 806-809

Criteria for diagnosis of pure neural leprosy

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The clinical diagnosis of pure neural leprosy (PNL) remains a public health care problem mainly because skin lesions—the cardinal features of leprosy—are always absent.Moreover, the identification of the leprosy bacillus is not easily achieved even when a nerve biopsy can be performed. In an attempt to reach a reliable PNL diagnosis in patients referred to our Leprosy Outpatient Clinic, this study employed a variety of criteria. The nerve biopsies performed on the 67 individuals whose clinical, neurological, and electrophysiological examination findings strongly suggested peripheral neuropathy were submitted to M. leprae identification via a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Mononeuropathy multiplex was the most frequent clinical and electrophysiological pattern of nerve dysfunction, while sensory impairment occurred in 89% of all cases and motor dysfunction in 81%. Axonal neuropathy was the predominant electrophysiological finding, while the histopathological nerve study showed epithelioid granuloma in 14% of the patients, acid fast bacilli in 16%, and nonspecific inflammatory infiltrate and/or fibrosis in 39%. PCR for M. leprae was positive in 47% of the nerve biopsy samples (n=23). PCR, in conjunction with clinical and neurological examination results, can be a powerful tool in attempting to identify and confirm a PNL diagnosis.