International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Dr Kensuke Mitsuda

    Status Physician
    Country Japan


    Kensuke Mitsuda (1876-1964) was a Japanese physician and dermatologist known for pioneering research in leprosy. He developed lepromin and described the Mitsuda reaction (1919), which is useful for the prognosis and classification of different types of leprosy based on an antigen reaction. He believed that a positive reaction indicated resistance to the leprosy bacilli. Mitsuda became chief medical officer of Zensho-en Leprosarium in 1909 and its director from 1914 to 1931. In 1931, he was made director of Nagashima Aisei-en, the first national leprosarium to be established in Japan. He retained this position until he retired in 1957. In 1951 he received the Culture Award from the Japanese Government for his work in leprosy, the highest honour in Japan outside political and military fields. In 1961 he received the Damien-Dutton Award. Mitsuda was a prominent leprosy specialist and an architect of Japan’s leprosy policy, but his reputation today is controversial. He failed to recognise the fundamental human rights of people affected by leprosy or the modern medical development marked by the introduction of new treatment regimens. He was a strong advocate of an "absolute isolation policy", which involved rounding up all leprosy sufferers, confining them in state-run institutions, and using sterilisation and abortion to eliminate the birth of their descendants. Mitsuda wrote more than 100 articles on leprosy, many of which were translated into foreign languages.


    International Journal of Leprosy, Centennial Festskrift edition, Vol 41, No 2. 1973.

    Also potentially of interest:

    P Fasal, 'Histopathology of Leprosy: a Tribute to Kensuke Mitsude (1876-1964)' in Cutis; Cutaneous Medicine for the Practitioner 18.1 (1976): 66-72.

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