Novartis, NLR announce collaboration on preventative treatment.
On June 10, Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development and Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) announced they would be collaborating with national leprosy programs and other partners from the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) to interrupt the transmission of leprosy.
The newly announced collaboration, known as the Leprosy post-exposure prophylaxis project (LPEP), aims at introducing preventative treatment for contacts of newly-diagnosed patients to decrease their risk of developing leprosy.
While unanswered questions remain about how leprosy is passed from person to person, it is recognized that close and frequent contact with an individual who is infectious increases the risk of transmission.
In recent years, the case detection rate of leprosy has leveled off at around 220,000 to 250,000 new cases annually. As a way to break this impasse, Novartis is looking to shift the focus of anti-leprosy activities to interrupting the transmission of the disease through preventative treatment.
Operating at several sites across Asia, Africa and Latin America, LPEP aims to provide evidence of the impact of post-exposure prophylaxis on case detection rates and its feasibility as a strategy to prevent leprosy transmission.
A vaccine for leprosy is being developed by American researchers and is set for toxicology tests toward the end of 2014 and for Phase I clinical trials in human volunteers by 2015, SciDev.Net reports. The project is led by the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) and the American Leprosy Missions (ALM). For the clinical testing phase, they have partnered with the Philippine-based Cebu Leprosy and Tuberculosis Research Foundation. For the past 12 years, the ALM has invested US$4 million in the endeavor to develop the leprosy vaccine and a new diagnostic test for the disease.