Traditional staining and microscopic examination techniques for the detection of Mycobacterium leprae, DNA amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of a 531-bp fragment of the M. leprae specific gene encoding the 36-kDa antigen, and serodiagnosis with M. leprae specific antigens (PGL-1 and D-BSA) were compared on different clinical specimens (serum samples, slit-skin smears, biopsies and swabs) from 60 leprosy patients attending the Sanatorium of Fontilles. Patients were divided into groups; (i) 20 multibacillary patients (MB) with positive bacterio- logical index (BI) by conventional methods and on WHO multidrug therapy (MDT); (ii) 30 MB patients with negative BI and completed minimum 2 years treatment MDT; (iii) 10 paucibacillary (PB) patients who had completed 6 months MDT at least 8 years ago. Control groups included four non-leprosy patients for PCR methods and 40 health control patients and 10 tuberculosis patients for serological methods. In the multibacillary BI positive group, there was a good correlation between all methods. All tests were negative in the paucibacillary group, although only a few patients were tested and all had been treated many years ago. One must be cautious concerning the diagnostic potential of these techniques in this type of leprosy. We also studied different combinations of leprosy diagnosis methods to determine the potential risk in a leprosy contact individuals group. The prevalence of antibodies to M. leprae antigens in serum was measured, together with the presence of M. leprae DNA in the nose and lepromin status in a group of 43 contacts of leprosy patients (12 household and 31 occupational) to evaluate the maintenance of infection reservoirs and transmission of the disease. Only two individuals were found to form a potential high risk group.