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Bartonella henselae as a putative trigger for chronic type 2 leprosy reactions.

Leprosy reactions are an acute inflammatory phenomenon that can arise before diagnosis, during treatment, or after cure of leprosy. These reactions are considered one of the main diseases that cause physical disabilities. Immunosuppressive treatment for these immune responses makes these patients susceptible to coinfections, which can trigger new leprosy reactions. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the occurrence of infection by Bartonella sp. in blood samples from 47 patients who had untreatable episodes of type 2 leprosy reactions for more than six months, comparing them with a control group. Cultures and molecular methods (PCR) were used. Amplicons from species-specific reactions and sequencing showed a higher prevalence of Bartonella henselae infection in patients, 19/47 (40.4 %), compared to control, 9/50 (18.0 %), p = 0.0149. Five patients accepted treatment for coinfection, and all showed improvement in leprosy reactions with treatment for B. henselae infection. We conclude that these bacteria can trigger chronic reactions of type 2 leprosy and should be investigated in these patients. SUMMARY LINE: Patients who have chronic type 2 leprosy reactions are more susceptible to Bartonella henselae infection than controls: 19/47 (40.4 %) compared 9/50 (18.0 %), p = 0.0149.

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