Recently, I was in New Orleans to give a talk at Tulane University and found I had a few extra hours to explore. Instead of spending time in the French Quarter or on Bourbon Street, I knew where I wanted to visit: Carville, LA.
This small town about 70 miles northwest of New Orleans is home to the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, which honors the thousands of men and women who lived in Carville at the National Leprosarium of the U.S. while being treated for leprosy, as well as the health professionals who cared for the patients.
The museum offers look at the disease and its effects, as well as how the discovery of antibiotics to treat the disease greatly helped patients.
Some of the exhibits showed how everyday items — from keys to food utensils to writing instruments — were adapted for leprosy patients.
A typical patient’s room is on display, along with a wheelchair used by those with foot deformities.
Perhaps one of the most moving displays showed how the discovery of antibiotics to treat leprosy positively impacted the lives of patients. Dr. Guy Henry Faget, an American doctor who served as director of the National Leprosarium, is credited with revolutionizing the treatment of leprosy through the use of promin, a sulfone compound.
While the advent of antibiotics has certainly helped those affected by leprosy, the disease still remains an issue in many parts of the world and is still found in the U.S. Diagnostics to detect infection and vaccines to prevent the disease will round out the tools needed to eliminate leprosy. IDRI is working on both.
As I visited the museum, I spoke with one of the people working there and told her about IDRI’s work. She’s expressed interest in learning more about our diagnostics and perhaps even adding information about our work to the museum.
Next time you are in Louisiana, visit Carville, and you might see IDRI’s contributions on display.