A leprosy mission to India
After a terrorist attack in downtown Mumbai caused severe havoc, I felt a little uneasy arriving at their International Airport the following day!
However, because I had never seen a case of leprosy, I was determined to learn as much as I could about it while I was there.
A few words about leprosy
Leprosy is caused by a mycobacterium and affects mainly nerves, skin and mucous membranes, so that patients can lose sensation and motor activity such as inability to move various joints. Sensory loss is patchy and predominantly affects the hands and feet, and, because affected skin is anaesthetised, the patient is unaware if it has been injured or not and an ulcer may easily form that can last the patient’s lifetime. Also, in time, major deformities can develop often leading ultimately to amputation of a limb.
Surgery, such as skin grafting, can help to some extent, but so far, there is no medical treatment available that eliminates the disease and heals the wounds it creates.
Our leprosy ulcer study
We tested wheatgrass extract on a patient who had ulcers on the sole of his foot for a year, and, because it healed just after three months’ wheatgrass treatment, we went ahead with our pilot study of 20 patients, and achieved some remarkable results.
For instance, Figures 1 and 2 show how well an ulcer that had been present for 2 years healed completely after just 9 weeks’ wheatgrass treatment.
The leprosy taboo
Leprosy is still considered by some to be due to sinful behaviour, a myth that has bedevilled these patients for several thousand years. The stigma generated by the disease often leads to rejection by family, friends, employers and the community, yet ironically, the disease is not transmitted via skin contact, but from nasal droplets.
Perhaps there is now a glimmer of hope for some of these unfortunate people, because healing their ulcers with wheatgrass may, in time, eliminate some of the stigma that exists against them.
Our Project Co-ordinator for the Leprosy Pilot Study, Dr. Laxminarayan Vardharajan Ph.D., aka “Rajan”, (see pic) has spent 30 years working in close contact with leprosy patients, sharing their lives and treating their ulcers – always with bare hands. Rajan’s way of helping to eliminate the taboo that leprosy spreads directly by skin contact.
Dr. Chris Reynolds.