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      Leprosy - evolution of the path to eradication

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          Leprosy is among the world's oldest and most dreaded diseases and it has been synonymous with stigma and discrimination due to the hideous deformities it produced, mystery around its aetiology and transmission and lack of any effective remedy till recently. Leprosy control started with the use of chaulmoogra oil and for the last three decades, multi drug therapy (MDT) has been our main tool against leprosy. In the last two decades, the reported global prevalence of active leprosy infection has dropped by almost 90 per cent by the combined efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), local governments, health professionals, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), however, a parallel drop in the incidence or new case detection rate (NCDR) has not occurred. From 1994 through 2011, more than 100,000 new cases are being detected annually, of whom maximum case load is from India. There is need for research on tools for early diagnosis, short and effective treatment, and prevention of deformities and disabilities. Evaluating the role of immunotherapy and immunoprophylaxis will also lead us to better understanding of their mode of action. Further molecular analysis of Mycobacterium leprae genome may provide the requisite basis for all this. The current reality is that there is a need to sustain and provide quality leprosy services to all persons through general health services, including good referral system. All these provisions in the integrated health care approach will go a long way in further reducing the stigma. Efforts need to be made to reduce deformity through early detection, self care, physiotherapy and reconstructive surgery and developing sound surveillance systems. With all the remarkable achievements in the fight against leprosy, the stage is now set for the final assault. It is hoped that with the efforts of all the stake holders and strong political will, the disease will be eradicated in the near future.

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          Most cited references 115

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              The continuing challenges of leprosy.

              Leprosy is best understood as two conjoined diseases. The first is a chronic mycobacterial infection that elicits an extraordinary range of cellular immune responses in humans. The second is a peripheral neuropathy that is initiated by the infection and the accompanying immunological events. The infection is curable but not preventable, and leprosy remains a major global health problem, especially in the developing world, publicity to the contrary notwithstanding. Mycobacterium leprae remains noncultivable, and for over a century leprosy has presented major challenges in the fields of microbiology, pathology, immunology, and genetics; it continues to do so today. This review focuses on recent advances in our understanding of M. leprae and the host response to it, especially concerning molecular identification of M. leprae, knowledge of its genome, transcriptome, and proteome, its mechanisms of microbial resistance, and recognition of strains by variable-number tandem repeat analysis. Advances in experimental models include studies in gene knockout mice and the development of molecular techniques to explore the armadillo model. In clinical studies, notable progress has been made concerning the immunology and immunopathology of leprosy, the genetics of human resistance, mechanisms of nerve injury, and chemotherapy. In nearly all of these areas, however, leprosy remains poorly understood compared to other major bacterial diseases.

                Author and article information

                Indian J Med Res
                Indian J. Med. Res
                The Indian Journal of Medical Research
                Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd (India )
                January 2013
                : 137
                : 1
                : 15-35
                Department of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, India
                Author notes
                Reprint requests: Dr Bhushan Kumar, Former Professor & Head, Department of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, H.No. 81, Sector 16, Chandigarh 160 015, India e-mail: kumarbhushan@ 123456hotmail.com

                Present address: H. No. 81, Sector 16, Chandigarh 160 015, India

                Copyright: © The Indian Journal of Medical Research

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Centenary Review Article


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