Skull and foot bones from a leper.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease which attacks the skin, peripheral nervous systems and the mucous membranes. The disease is most common in warm, humid tropical and sub-tropical areas. Leprosy is characterised by multiple lesions accompanied by sensory los in the affected areas, which usually begins in the body's extremities. In advanced cases, gangrene can occur, resulting in parts of the body dying and becoming deformed, as with these bones. In many cultures, sufferers were shunned or even banished from society and forced to live in separate leper colonies.