Since 2002, American Leprosy Missions has been committed to working towards the development of the world’s first leprosy vaccine and a new leprosy diagnostic test in partnership with the non-profit Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) in Seattle, Washington.
During the past ten years we have invested almost $4 million into developing the vaccine and diagnostic test.
Why is a leprosy vaccine needed?
- Leprosy remains one of the most dreaded diseases in the world, a disease that isolates and shames its victims.
- Active leprosy cases and leprosy-related disabilities affect more than 4 million people in the world today.
- Immunizations are the most cost-effective way to eliminate disease.
In late October 2011, more than 20 scientists and global health experts gathered at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health to discuss the current leprosy vaccine research. Read more. In 2013, vaccine toxicology studies will take place, with safety trials starting in 2014.
What could be the impact of a new diagnostic test?
- Leprosy diagnosis currently requires a well-trained clinician who can recognize the symptoms.
- This can be impossible in poor, remote areas.
- A new, easy-to-administer diagnostic test can detect the bacteria before symptoms appear, enabling treatment to be administered before the disease has irreparably damaged nerves.
In early 2013, IDRI announced that a new, rapid diagnostic test for leprosy was registered for use in Brazil. According to Malcolm Duthie, Senior Scientist at IDRI, the diagnostic test is simple, easy to use and accurate. “You add a drop of blood and a couple of drops of a developing reagent to the test and a line develops,” he explained. “From there, it’s somewhat like a pregnancy test: the appearance of two lines indicate the test is positive and the person has leprosy.”
Read the article Can Leprosy Be Eradicated? published on February 20, 2013 in Slate about the leprosy vaccine and rapid diagnostic test.