A variety of host immunogenetic factors appear to influence both an individual's susceptibility to infection with Mycobacterium leprae
and the pathologic course of the disease. Animal models can contribute to a better understanding of the role of immunogenetics in leprosy through comparative studies helping to confirm the significance of various identified traits and in deciphering the underlying mechanisms that may be involved in expression of different disease related phenotypes. Genetically engineered mice, with specific immune or biochemical pathway defects, are particularly useful for investigating granuloma formation and resistance to infection and are shedding new light on borderline areas of the leprosy spectrum which are clinically unstable and have a tendency toward immunological complications. Though armadillos are less developed in this regard, these animals are the only other natural hosts of M. leprae
and they present a unique opportunity for comparative study of genetic markers and mechanisms associable with disease susceptibility or resistance, especially the neurological aspects of leprosy. In this paper, we review the recent contributions of genetically engineered mice and armadillos toward our understanding of the immunogenetics of leprosy.