By Associated Press - Saturday, March 5, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dr. Thomas Rea, whose research into leprosy helped lead to treatments that made the disease less contagious and allowed patients to lead normal lives, has died. He was 86.

His son, Steven Rea, says Rea died of a form of blood cancer on Feb. 7 at his home in a foothill community north of Los Angeles.

Rea helped identify the role of the immune system in the development of leprosy symptoms such as disfiguring skin lesions that had made sufferers of Hansen’s disease outcasts since Biblical times.

Current treatments have made the disease rare and controllable.

Rea also was project director for the Hansen’s disease clinic at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for 31 years before retiring in 2012.

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