Leprosy (also known in some parts of the world as Hansen’s disease) is a chronic bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Although the elimination of leprosy globally (i.e. a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10 000 persons at the global level) was achieved in the year 2000, it is still endemic in certain areas of the world.

Leprosy is spread via droplets, although it is not thought to be highly infectious. It mainly affects the skin, the nervous system and the eyes, and is known for the disfigurement and disability that it can cause. The disease is curable and early treatment prevents disability.

TDR related research

TDR helped to highlight the problem of resistance to the treatment used in the 1970s, and tested new combinations that led to multidrug therapy (MDT) being recommended by the World Health Organization. At the same time, social science research uncovered the social stigma that prevented many women from being diagnosed and treated, helping to expand public acceptance as the new treatment was rolled out. By the mid-1990s, the global number of registered patients had decreased fourfold, with TDR’s work on MDT effectively eradicating the need to continue searching for a leprosy vaccine.

Archival research publications on leprosy