The International Leprosy Association is a venerable institution ably led by its current President Dr. Marcos Virmond, who presided over the recent ILA Regional Congress of the Americas and 12th Brazilian Leprosy Congress. But as leprosy declines, the ILA faces an uncertain future. Its membership has dwindled to around 130 and it has not been able to publish a scientific journal for several years.
In many parts of the world, leprosy does not suggest itself as an attractive career option to young researchers (although Brazil, which sees the second highest number of new cases each year after India, may be an exception). There aren't the big scientific themes to prick their interest, nor the abundant research grants to draw them in.
The next international congress of the ILA will take place in Belgium in September 2013. In times gone by, ILA congresses attracted between 1,000 to 1,500 delegates, but Dr. Yo Yuasa, a past president of the organization, expects only a few hundred to attend due to fewer field workers being present. "Doubtless the future of the ILA will be debated in Brussels," he says. "But from my perspective, so long as leprosy exists in the world there is a need for the ILA."