The viability ofMycobacterium leprae, maintained within 33B Schwannoma cells, was estimated in terms of incorporation of [14C] acetate into its specific phenolic glycolipid-1. This measure of viability was correlated with two other assays,viz., fluorescein diacetate/ethidium bromide staining and mouse footpad growth. Observation of a 2-fold increase in the number of intracellularMycobacterium leprae over an experimental period of 12 days also corroborated this contention. Furthermore, on addition of anti-leprosy drugs to these intracellularMycobacterium leprae there was significant decrease in phenolic glycolipid-1 synthesis indicative of loss of viability of the organisms. This study also established the importance of the host cell for active bacillary metabolism, asMycobacterium leprae maintained in cell-free conditions showed no incorporation into phenolic glycolipid-1. Moreover, compromising the host’s protein synthesis capacity with cycloheximide, also led to reduction in bacillary metabolism. As this system measures the metabolic synthesis of a uniqueMycobacterium leprae component, it would be useful for development and screening of compounds acting against specific bacillary targets.