DNA samples from blood and nasal swabs of 125 healthy household contacts was submitted to amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using a Mycobacterium leprae
-specific sequence as a target for the detection of subclinical infection with M. leprae
. All samples were submitted to hybridization analysis in order to exclude any false positive or negative results. Two positive samples were confirmed from blood out of 119 (1.7%) and two positive samples from nasal secretion out of 120 (1.7%). The analysis of the families with positive individuals showed that 2.5% (n = 3) of the contacts were relatives of multibacilary patients while 0.8% of the cases (n = 1) had a paucibacilary as an index case. All positive contacts were followed up and after one year none of them presented clinical signs of the disease. In spite of the PCR sensitivity to detect the presence of the M. leprae
in a subclinical stage, this molecular approach did not seem to be a valuable tool to screen household contacts, since we determined a spurious association of the PCR positivity and further development of leprosy.