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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

FEATURE: From Spain to the World

The only scientific publication about leprosy in Spanish has a long history.

Helping the Spanish-speaking world to a better understanding of leprosy

For more than 100 years, the sanatorium of Fontilles* in Spain has dedicated itself to addressing both the medical and social needs of people affected by leprosy.

As part of its duty of care, Fontilles has always considered relevant the publication of literature covering various aspects of leprosy in order to increase knowledge and understanding of the disease.

Central to this is our flagship journal, Revista de Leprologia. It is the only existing Spanish-language publication dedicated to leprosy and in its current form has been published without interruption for 72 years.

It is distributed mainly in Spanish-speaking, low-endemic countries where the disease has not yet been eradicated and new cases continue to be detected. Coming out every four months, it covers topics intended to maintain expertise and knowledge of the disease, including original papers on medical, physical and social aspects of leprosy, and information relevant to leprosy control.


Five years before Fontilles was officially inaugurated in January 1909 in the wooded hills of Vall de Laguar south of Valencia, a journal called La Lepra was launched in 1904. Initiatives had already begun to raise funds and identify a suitable site for a sanatorium, and La Lepra’s role was to disseminate up-to-date medical information about leprosy. It also underlined the need to provide adequate assistance to those affected by the disease, who were living in caves or isolated houses far from the nearest village.

In 1910, the journal was renamed Fontilles. Under the stewardship of Dr. Mauro Guillen, a dermatologist and first medical director of the sanatorium, it began publishing the latest scientific advances on leprosy. It also included clinical studies carried out at the sanatorium as well as information about the daily needs of the residents. When the sanatorium inaugurated its laboratory in 1922, scientific activity at the sanatorium increased, as did the number of scientific papers published in the journal.

Political changes taking place in the 1930s in Spain and especially the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) profoundly affected living conditions at the sanatorium. The last number of Fontilles was published in 1931, and the years of severe hardship during and after the civil war made attending to the most basic and essential needs of the residents the main and only priority.

Publishing activities resumed in July 1944 under the newly appointed medical director, Dr. Felix Contreras Dueñas. He gave the new journal the title it bears today: Revista de Leprologia.


On November 24, 2014, at the Institute of Medical History in Valencia, the Association Fontilles Lucha contra la Lepra (SF) celebrated the 70th anniversary of the journal, which received an award as one the oldest scientific journals in Valencia.

Over seven decades, the journal has had four different editors and the cover has been redesigned six times. It was the first journal in Spain to publish on the administration of sulfones in the treatment of leprosy, to describe the use of thalidomide for the treatment of leprosy reactions and to promote the implementation of multidrug therapy (MDT) after it was recommended by the WHO in the 1980s.

A total of around 360 copies per issue are distributed to 36 countries. Although there is an annual subscription, free copies are provided to doctors and health personnel working in leprosy unable to afford the fee, as well as to selected tropical medicine institutes. It can also be accessed on the INFOLEP website.

The journal receives funding support from two members of the International Federation of Anti-leprosy Organizations: The American Leprosy Missions and The German Leprosy and TB Relief Association.

Revista de Leprologia has an active, international Editorial Board and has established a collaboration with the Leprosy Review, published by LEPRA in the United Kingdom. Any article considered of special interest to our readers is translated into Spanish and published in the journal.

We remain committed to the philosophy the journal has adhered to for more than 70 years, which is contributing to a better understanding of the disease of leprosy.


AUTHOR: Dr. Pedro Torres

Dr. Pedro Torres is Editor of Revista de Leprologia and Head of Laboratory at Fontilles.


* The official name is Sanatorio San Francisco de Borja. Fontilles is a Spanish NGO founded in 1902.