Leprosy is the primary infectious disease of Schwann cells. The infectious agent, Mycobacterium leprae, specifically invades the Schwann cells, where it multiplies with impunity, being protected by organism-specific host immunity. The infected Schwann cells eventually die, thus triggering powerful immune reactions, which in turn destroy myelin and kill the axons, hence producing profound nerve damage. This nerve damage defines the clinical signature of the disease, which progresses as an acute neuropathy, resulting initially in anaesthetic skin patches, and later in trophic and motor abnormalities. The pathogenic involvement of autoimmune components is important for therapeutic strategy, which currently relies on a combination of immunodepression and anti-mycobacterial therapy.
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