National Hansen’s Disease Program (NHDP)
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The National Hansen's Disease Program (NHDP), part of the US Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), is the epicenter of Hansen's disease (leprosy) care, research and information in the US. The US Government established the predecessor of the NHDP, the National Leprosarium, in Carville, Louisiana, in 1917. Outpatient clinics were established in 1981. The National Hansen's Disease Laboratory Research Branch, located at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge, conducts and supports research in the diagnosis, transmission, prevention, and treatment of leprosy. The Laboratory Research Branch has developed and implemented many of the newer sophisticated molecular biology tools used today to study leprosy. It plays an integral role in NHDP’s quest for a more complete understanding of Hansen's disease and the translation of basic research findings into an internationally coordinated program designed to improve diagnosis and treatment. The causative agent of leprosy is Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, Gram positive bacterium. M. leprae is non-cultivable on laboratory medium and must be grown in animal models. Recently, a second leprosy causing bacterium, M. lepromatosis, has been identified. The Laboratory Research Branch has unique expertise in the propagation of leprosy bacilli, including the only colony of M. leprae-infected armadillos in the world.