The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is the only known nonhuman reservoir of Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of Hansen's disease or leprosy. We conducted a 6-yr study on a wild population of armadillos in western Mississippi that was exposed to M. leprae to evaluate the importance of demographic and spatial risk factors on individual antibody status. We found that spatially derived covariates were not predictive of antibody status. Furthermore, analyses revealed no evidence of clustering by antibody-positive individuals. Lactating females and adult males had higher odds of being antibody positive than did nonlactating females. No juveniles or yearlings were antibody positive. Results of these analyses support the hypothesis that M. leprae infection patterns are spatially homogeneous within this armadillo population. Further research related to movement patterns, contact among individuals, antibody status, and environmental factors could help address hypotheses related to the role of environmental transmission on M. leprae infection and the mechanisms underlying the differential infection patterns among demographic groups.
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Vol. 52 • No. 3