A man’s mysterious ring-shaped rash turned out to be leprosy, scientists have revealed.
The man in his 20s, from Texas, was struck down by the deadly medieval disease – which also caused his fingers to bend into a claw.
Initial tests failed to show what was wrong with him when he went to a dermatologist after suffering numbness and tingling in spots on his skin for three months.
But after sending a sample of his skin to a specialist laboratory, the results showed he had leprosy.
Dr Aidan Filley, from Texas A&M University, said: “Early diagnosis and treatment is important to reduce the disability and negative psychosocial effects of leprosy and to reduce the risk of transmission.”
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.
The condition is almost non-existent in the UK today, with only five new cases seen per year since 2015.
However, it is still endemic in parts of the world, with around 200,000 people across the globe diagnosed annually.
The World Health Organization is working to completely eliminate the disease, and in 2019, 45 countries reported no new cases.
It is usually spread by droplets from the mouth, but can also be transmitted by prolonged skin-to-skin contact or from tattoo contamination.
Symptoms can take years to develop, but if left untreated can lead to nerve damage, blindness and death.
In the Middle Ages, patients were often ostracized from society for fear of its contagiousness, but it can now be cured with modern medicine.
The man from Texas’ case was first reported in JAMA Clinical Challenge.
He was heavily tattooed and moved to the United States from Samoa – where leprosy is still endemic – four years before he was diagnosed.
Doctors put him on a course of antibiotics recommended by the WHO to treat leprosy, and his symptoms improved after two months.
He had surgery on his tendons and occupational therapy to help return to the hand and was still on antibiotics after a year.