Reaction is a common complication that can arise when someone has leprosy—sometimes as late as seven years afterwards. It’s an episode of inflammation that affects a third of all leprosy patients. It can result in extensive nerve damage and is the major cause of disability in leprosy. It’s unfortunate for patients that begin to recover from leprosy only to experience further irreversible damage from Reaction. It’s one of the things that makes leprosy such a complex and harmful disease.
Leprosy is a disease that affects people differently according to their immunity to certain bacteria. 5% of people have no immunity. It seems like a category, but it’s more of a spectrum. Some people in that 5% have a small immune response. Others have none. The World Health Organisation has organised these differences under two classifications: Paucibacillary leprosy and Multibacillary leprosy. These classifications have their own symptoms and medical response. Leprosy can be described even further with several sub-types that sit along the Ridley-Jopling Scale. With so many sub-types and symptoms, it’s hard to believe they’re all caused by two simple organisms—M.leprae and M.lepromatosis.
Gandhi leaving after an interview in Delhi, April 18 1946. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
Joe Eggmolesse is a third-generation Australian South Sea Islander. His grandparents came by ship to Australia in the late 1800s. His grandfather came willingly. But his grandmother, at 16 years of age, was taken by force in a practice called “blackbirding”. In Queensland and northern New South Wales, the sugar and cotton industries enslaved islanders. Around 60,000 people came to Australia as “indentured labourers” in this way. In 1901, the government enacted two White Australia policies. They tried to get rid of “Kanakas” (South Sea island workers). After half a century of blackbirding, the practice finally stopped.