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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: New Guidelines in the Making

Shaping the future of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of leprosy.

The WHO’s Global Leprosy Program is in the process of developing a set of guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of leprosy.

A 22-person Guidelines Development Group met at the end of May in New Delhi to review developments in these areas as it prepares its recommendations.

Group members include bacteriologists, epidemiologists, health economists and national leprosy program managers, as well as persons affected by leprosy.

The initiative comes as the rate of decrease in new case numbers worldwide has slowed to an overall gradual decline over the past 10 years, from 265,661 cases in 2006 to 210,758 cases in 2015, with acknowledgment of the need for new strategies to accelerate the pace of decline if we are to complete the “last mile” of leprosy elimination.

The meeting covered four main themes: 1) Tools that have the potential to lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses, such as an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test for detecting leprosy antibodies or a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assay for detecting M. leprae DNA in biopsies; 2) Uniform-multidrug therapy or U-MDT, a uniform 6-month treatment for all types of leprosy that would simplify diagnosis and reduce the burden of treatment on patients currently taking MDT for 12 months; 3) Methods for preventing infection or the onset of symptoms following infection, such as chemoprophylaxis with single-dose rifampicin; and 4) drug resistance.

Persons affected by leprosy represented in the group sought assurances that any recommendations made would be based on evidence of their effectiveness, and that they would not invite further stigma.

The guidelines are expected to be published later this year.

MUSEUM MILESTONE

Japan’s National Hansen’s Disease Museum marked a milestone recently when the aggregate number visitors reached the 400,000 mark.

Located in western Tokyo, the museum opened in 1993 as the Prince Takamatsu Memorial Hansen’s Disease Museum, before being relaunched in 2007 as the National Hansen’s Disease Museum.

Risa Hagiwara, a fourth-year student at the University of Tsukuba School of Medicine, was the 400,000th person to pass through the museum’s doors since 1993. She was one of 10 students visiting the museum with their professor for their social medicine course.

The museum is part of the national effort to erase the stigma associated with leprosy and restore respect for those affected by the disease.