International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Dr Albert Dubois

    Status Physician
    Country Belgium


    Albert Dubois, M.D., D.T.M. (1888-1977) was an outstanding and forward-looking Belgian leprologist who pioneered leprosy work in the Belgian Congo. Dubois graduated in Medicine from Louvain University in 1910 and, having taken a diploma in tropical medicine at Brussels, sailed to the Belgian Congo (now known as Zaire) in 1911. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the diverse researches of the Medical Laboratory in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), his scientific interests ranging from human trypanosomiasis and amoebasis to beri-beri and onchocerciasis. He was early brought into contact with leprosy in the riverside hospital, and began his investigations of the diverse clinical manifestations of the disease and their histopathological basis, which were later to occupy so much of his time and interest. He became associated especially with an area of unbelievably high prevalence in the Uele, and enlisted the interest of the Belgian Red Cross and subsequently other Belgian philanthropic organizations in establishing and maintaining a first-class laboratory, the Leprosy Research Institute, at Pawa in 1934, which became the centre of a model leprosy control scheme in the surrounding villages.

    From 1928 to 1945 Dubois was Professor of Tropical Medicine at the School of Tropical Medicine in Parc Duden, Brussels, and thereafter in Antwerp when the School became the Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine. When the great Professor J. Rodhain retired in 1947, Dubois was appointed Director of the Institute, a position that he held until he retired in 1958. In these two roles, he played a great part in the training of successive generations of doctors and other health workers from various countries, most of whom would serve in the Belgian Congo or Zaire. His textbook, Les Maladies des Pays Chauds (1947), written in collaboration with Louis van den Berghe, achieved a deserved success.

    Despite the diversity of his medical interests, his was primarily concerned with understanding leprosy. Influenced by German and Scandinavian researches, he was soon convinced of the importance of the nasal mucosa as the exit site of leprosy bacilli; he was equally convinced of the role of cellular—as distinct from bacillary—inflitration as the overriding factor in peripheral nerve damage. His inspiring teaching is enshrined in the manual entitled La Lépre, which for several decades was the leprosy Bible for doctors and other health workers (particularly the agents sanitaires) working in Central Africa. The doyen of Belgian leprologists, Dubois maintained his interest in the subject long after most people would have shown signs of senescence. He died in Brussels on 19 August 1977, at the advanced age of 89.

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

    S Browne & M Lechat, 'Albert Dubois, 1888-1977' Lepr Rev. 1978 Mar; 49(1):75-6.


    Les Maladies des Pays Chauds (1947)

    La Lépre

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