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Schwann cells are the target of Mycobacterium leprae, the pathogen responsible for leprosy. Once inside the cell, M. leprae activates the host’s proliferative machinery, thereby increasing the number of cells susceptible to infection. This astonishing manipulation of the mammalian cell cycle is the subject of recent work by Tapinos and Rambukkana, who show that M. leprae drives proliferation through a novel route to extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK). In this Perspective, we discuss this important piece of work and highlight the noncanonical pathway used by M. leprae to induce proliferation.