Novartis Foundation and American Leprosy Missions Launch Innovative Project to Stop Leprosy in Myanmar
The Novartis Foundation and the United States’ leading anti-leprosy organization, American Leprosy Missions, have launched a groundbreaking program in Myanmar to stop the transmission of leprosy.
More than 230,000 new cases of leprosy are diagnosed each year around the world. While leprosy can be cured with a combination of three antibiotics, until now there has been no way to stop the spread of the disease. In this innovative, three-year pilot project, a single dose of one of these antibiotics, rifampicin, will be given to all the close contacts of people with leprosy in two districts of Myanmar.
The pilot program is being launched in Myanmar, and five other countries, and will expand on a successful six-year trial supported by American Leprosy Missions. This earlier trial showed that a single-dose of rifampicin reduces the incidence of leprosy in the first two years by 60%.
“This is historic, and we are thrilled to be playing a key role in expanding this groundbreaking project,” says Darren Schaupp, American Leprosy Missions’ director of program operations. “Leprosy is a devastating disease that has plagued mankind for thousands of years. For the first time we will be able to help stop leprosy before it shows up in people. This is significant because it stops transmission and reduces the terrible disabilities resulting from leprosy.”
American Leprosy Missions, which began working in Myanmar in 1906, will oversee the implementation of the pilot program in collaboration with the Myanmar Ministry of Health. The Novartis Foundation will fund the project.
In addition to supporting this new method of stopping leprosy, American Leprosy Missions, in partnership with the Infectious Disease Research Institute, has recently developed a leprosy vaccine to help prevent the disease. It is currently being manufactured in large enough quantities so that toxicology studies and clinical trials can begin.
About American Leprosy Missions
American Leprosy Missions, based in Greenville, South Carolina, is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases. It currently operates in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. During its more than 100-year history, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, community development and vaccine research.
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