The first written descriptions of leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, date back to 600 BC in India and 200 BC in China. During the Middle Ages, leprosy reached epidemic proportions in Europe and was once worldwide in distribution. Now, leprosy is seen mainly in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Leprosy is a slowly progressive, chronic infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae, an intracytoplasmic parasite of macrophages and Schwann cells.
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