Don’t eat armadillos. In fact, it’s probably best not to play with them either. Though I’ve lived in Texas now for a few years, I’ve yet to see a live armadillo (though I’ve seen plenty on the roadside…). They don’t strike me as creatures to play with or even eat, but apparently people do. However, researchers now tell us that “Frequent direct contact with armadillos and cooking and consumption of armadillo meat should be discouraged.”
Why keep your distance from armadillos? Because they can infect you with leprosy.
A disease known since ancient times, leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) is characterized by disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation and comes with great stigma. The US only has about 150 cases of leprosy each year which mostly affecting those who worked abroad. But, a third of all patients contract the disease locally.
Researchers saw a strong association between a particular strain of the bacteria causing leprosy in Southern states and armadillos. It’s been known since the 1970s that armadillos carry the disease. In this new study, researchers compared the DNA of the leprosy strains in humans and armadillos and found they are the same.
While the likelihood is rare, if you do become infected with leprosy, antibiotics can treat it. But best to pass on the armadillo chili just in case.