• View in gallery

    (A) Bilateral symmetrical nonsegmental vitiligo. (B) Infiltrative lesions of lepromatous leprosy. This figure appears in color at www.ajtmh.org.

  • View in gallery

    (A) Degenerative changes in keratinocytes and increased Langerhans cells with thickening of basement membrane (hematoxylin and eosin stain, 10×). (B) Large numbers of acid-fast bacilli deposited in clumps (globi; Fite-Faraco stain, 40×). This figure appears in color at www.ajtmh.org.

  • 1.

    Rao PN, Sujai S , 2018. Current situation of leprosy in India and its future implications. Indian Dermatol Online J 9: 8389.

  • 2.

    Boisseau-Garsaud AM, Vezon G, Helenon R, Garsaud P, Saint-Cyr I, Quist D , 2000. High prevalence of vitiligo in lepromatous leprosy. Int J Dermatol 39: 837839.

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    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Kroumpouzos G, Vareltzidis A, Konstadoulakis MM, Avgerinou G, Anastasiadis G, Kroubouzou H, Panteleos A, Tosca A, 1993. Evaluation of the autoimmune response in leprosy. Lepr Rev 64: 199207.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Malik S, Cohen PR, 2021. Vitiligo-associated autoimmune disorders: a woman with vitiligo and incipient hypothyroidism. Cureus 13: e19164.

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Lepromatous Leprosy with Vitiligo, a Clinical Diagnostic Challenge

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  • 1 ICMR-National JALMA Institute for Leprosy & Other Mycobacterial Diseases, Agra, India;
  • | 2 Pathkind Laboratories, Agra, India

Leprosy, a neglected tropical disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, remains a public health problem in India with continued transmission despite its elimination at national level with prevalence of less than 1 per 10,000 population. The clinical diagnosis requires presence of at least one of the three cardinal signs of leprosy: hypopigmented or reddish patch(s) with definite sensory loss, thickened peripheral nerve(s) with impairment of sensations, and the skin smear positive for acid-fast bacilli.1 Another condition carrying similar stigma is vitiligo affecting melanocytes in the epidermal basal layer. The presentation of vitiligo is hypochromic to achromic patches and may pose a challenge in clinical diagnosis of leprosy based on its first and most common cardinal sign.

A 40-year-old man presented to our outpatient department with complaint of a chronic nonhealing ulcer on the plantar aspect of the right foot. There was no history of hypertension, diabetes, or peripheral vascular disease. The patient was a nonsmoker and had no family or contact history with leprosy patients. The examination revealed large (> 10 cm), generalized, bilaterally symmetrical depigmented macules of 3 years’ duration, diagnosed as nonsegmental vitiligo. Erythematous ill-defined swelling over ear lobes, hypoaesthetic area over the vitiligo patch, infiltration on the back and hypoaesthesia in the gloves and stocking pattern were also noted (Figure 1). The peripheral nerves were bilaterally enlarged but nontender. The Ziehl-Neelsen staining of slit skin smears from three sites and average bacteriological index was 2.3. Figure 2 shows hematoxylin and eosin and Fite-Faraco staining for acid-fast bacilli on punch biopsy from the dorsum. The diagnosis of lepromatous leprosy was made and multibacillary drug therapy was started along with wound management. The patient was referred to a specialty vitiligo clinic.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

(A) Bilateral symmetrical nonsegmental vitiligo. (B) Infiltrative lesions of lepromatous leprosy. This figure appears in color at www.ajtmh.org.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 107, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.22-0201

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

(A) Degenerative changes in keratinocytes and increased Langerhans cells with thickening of basement membrane (hematoxylin and eosin stain, 10×). (B) Large numbers of acid-fast bacilli deposited in clumps (globi; Fite-Faraco stain, 40×). This figure appears in color at www.ajtmh.org.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 107, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.22-0201

The present case posed a diagnostic challenge in a patient where the suspicion of leprosy was low and who presented at our center for nonhealing ulcer due to loss of protective sensation. The presence of achromic vitiligo patches obscured the recognition of typical hypoaesthetic patches of leprosy, resulting in delayed cardinal signs–based clinical diagnosis. Previous studies also show increased prevalence of vitiligo in leprosy cases; however, the mechanism of the association is not clear.2 Aberration in immune response with autoantibodies is a factor common to both the conditions.3,4 Patients with vitiligo and symptoms of sensory motor impairment should also be screened for Hansen’s disease in endemic areas.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We acknowledge the support of Dr. Raj Kamal, Head, Clinical Division, ICMR-NJIL&OMD, Agra, India, for guidance and support.

REFERENCES

  • 1.

    Rao PN, Sujai S , 2018. Current situation of leprosy in India and its future implications. Indian Dermatol Online J 9: 8389.

  • 2.

    Boisseau-Garsaud AM, Vezon G, Helenon R, Garsaud P, Saint-Cyr I, Quist D , 2000. High prevalence of vitiligo in lepromatous leprosy. Int J Dermatol 39: 837839.

  • 3.

    Kroumpouzos G, Vareltzidis A, Konstadoulakis MM, Avgerinou G, Anastasiadis G, Kroubouzou H, Panteleos A, Tosca A, 1993. Evaluation of the autoimmune response in leprosy. Lepr Rev 64: 199207.

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Malik S, Cohen PR, 2021. Vitiligo-associated autoimmune disorders: a woman with vitiligo and incipient hypothyroidism. Cureus 13: e19164.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Harpreet Singh Pawar, Clinical Division, ICMR-National JALMA Institute for Leprosy & Other Mycobacterial Diseases, Dr. M. Miyazaki Marg, Tajganj, Agra, India. E-mail: harpreet.pawar@icmr.gov.in

Financial support: This work was financially supported by the Indian Council of Medical Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, government of India.

Authors’ addresses: Harpreet Singh Pawar and Harish Kumar Sagar, Clinical Division, ICMR-National JALMA Institute for Leprosy & Other Mycobacterial Diseases, Dr. M. Miyazaki Marg, Tajganj, Agra, India, E-mails: harpreet.pawar@icmr.gov.in and drharishkumarsagar@gmail.com. Ankur Singh, Cluster Lab Head, Pathkind Diagnostics, Kunwar Colony, Near Khandari Crossing, Agra, India, E-mail: dr.ankursingh@gmail.com.

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