Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae
that affects the skin and nerves, presenting a singular clinical picture. Across the leprosy spectrum, lepromatous leprosy (LL) exhibits a classical hallmark: the presence of a collection of M. leprae
-infected foamy macrophages/Schwann cells characterised by their high lipid content. The significance of this foamy aspect in mycobacterial infections has garnered renewed attention in leprosy due to the recent observation that the foamy aspect represents cells enriched in lipid droplets (LD) (also known as lipid bodies). Here, we discuss the contemporary view of LD as highly regulated organelles with key functions in M. leprae
persistence in the LL end of the spectrum. The modern methods of studying this ancient disease have contributed to recent findings that describe M. leprae
-triggered LD biogenesis and recruitment as effective mycobacterial intracellular strategies for acquiring lipids, sheltering and/or dampening the immune response and favouring bacterial survival, likely representing a fundamental aspect of M. leprae
pathogenesis. The multifaceted functions attributed to the LD in leprosy may contribute to the development of new strategies for adjunctive anti-leprosy therapies.