Situation and trends
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability. Multidrug therapy (MDT) treatment has been made available through WHO free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995. MDT provides a highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.
Elimination of leprosy as public health problem (defined as a registered prevalence of less than 1 case per 10 000 persons) was achieved globally in the year 2000. More than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated with MDT over the past 20 years.
In 2016, a total of 145 countries or territories reported on leprosy to WHO: 31 from the African Region, 28 from the Region of the Americas, 9 from the South-East Asia Region, 15 from the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 31 from the European Region and 30 from the Western Pacific Region. In 2016, 214 783 new cases of leprosy were detected, and the registered prevalence was 171 947 cases.