The incidence of leprosy, an infectious disease that causes lumps and skin sores, has decreased by roughly 95%, but 233,000 new cases were reported in 2012.
Oct 02, 2013
Thanks in part to the availability of multidrug therapy (MDT), the worldwide prevalence of leprosy has fallen by approximately 95%. However, despite this dramatic success, people continue to contract the disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there were 233,000 new cases reported in 2012. There is still an urgent need to interrupt the transmission of leprosy.
A new diagnostic tool that could identify people who are infected would be a real breakthrough in the fight against leprosy. Following early diagnosis, prophylactic treatment of (latently) infected individuals could then potentially avert the development of clinical leprosy disease.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a slow growing bacteria. Leprosy mainly affects skin and peripheral nerves and causes lumps and skin sores. It can also cause numbness in the limbs and muscle weakness. Leprosy is contagious, especially for children, but a person must come into repeated close contact with an untreated patient to contract the disease, which is usually passed through droplets from the nose and mouth.
Novartis and the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development have a long-standing commitment in the fight against leprosy. Two of the three drugs in MDT — rifampicin and clofazimine — were developed in Novartis laboratories. Since 2000, Novartis has donated MDT through WHO, helping to treat more than 5 million leprosy patients. In 2012, Novartis extended its collaboration with the WHO through the year 2020. This renewed commitment is expected to make MDT available to approximately 850,000 people. The Novartis Foundation is working with partners to interrupt the transmission and finally end leprosy.