From hours and hours of extensive research (well, honestly, that’s really about 10 minutes on the Internet), I bring you the latest in armadillo leprosy news. One of my most astute readers questioned whether armadillos carried leprosy, and I felt the need to double-check my “facts.”
And the first Googled source turned out to be an old friend of sorts, Cecil Adams from The Straight Dope answering the question, Is it true that armadillos carry leprosy? Cecil dubs himself “the world’s smartest human being” and has written several books and has a column in the Chicago Reader. The Straight Dope’s tagline is “fighting ignorance since 1973 (It’s taking longer than we thought).
Bear with me as I conclude this tangent before expounding further on armadillos and leprosy. While I never had any connection to Cecil, his long-time illustrator, Slug Signorino, had done illustrations for some of husband’s magazines. So, it was fun to see that old Slug is still at it. I recommend a visit to The Straight Dope Web site for an entertaining and enlightening excursion.
Apparently armadillos can carry leprosy. In the 1970s, 15 to 20 percent of the wild armadillos in Texas and Louisiana were found to carry leprosy. Yet, researchers in Florida found no sign of leprosy in 3,000 armadillos they examined. In the mid-80s a few people were found to have leprosy in Texas and Louisiana who had had no contact with human carriers. Their only connection had been some contact with armadillos—either racing them, extracting the meat or making stuff out of the shells.
The use of armadillos infected with leprosy has also enabled researchers to search for new drugs to treat the disease in humans and to test whether older ones induce resistance after prolonged treatment. Source: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Advice from the Kitchen Sink: If you are dead set on eating or racing armadillos make damn sure they aren’t from Texas or Louisiana.
NOTE: I am not advocating eating armadillo but here’s a recipe found on the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Web site if you are ever tempted to try it.
ARMADILLO IN MUSTARD SAUCE
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed (optional)
1/4 cup butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 med. onion, sliced thin
1 armadillo, cleaned and cut into serving pieces
1 1/4 cups light cream
1 tbsp. brown mustard (e.g. Gulden's) or Poupon Dijon
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Mix all ingredients of marinade and add armadillo. Marinate about 8 hrs., turning meat occasionally. Remove armadillo and reserve marinade.
Melt butter in deep skillet and brown armadillo pieces. Pour in marinade and bring to a boil. Stir in seasoning, cover and simmer until tender (about 1 - 1 1/4 hours.) Remove skillet from the fire and place armadillo pieces on a warmed platter.
Mix mustard and cornstarch, then mix in cream. Return skillet to low heat and stir in this mixture a little at a time. Stir sauce until hot, but not boiling, and thickened. Pour sauce over armadillo. Serve with steamed rice.