Leprosy elimination (LEP)

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Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast bacterium affecting mainly the skin and nerves.

In 1981, a WHO study group recommended multidrug therapy (MDT) consisting of three drugs, and it has been implemented since then. MDT is safe, effective and easily administered. WHO estimates that early detection and treatment with MDT has prevented about four million people from being disabled, successfully treating 1.5 million more in Africa. This indicates the cost-effectiveness of MDT as a health intervention.

WHO has established targets of reaching elimination at national and then sub-national levels. The setting of such targets helps generate and maintain high levels of political commitment in endemic countries, as well as encouraging donor support for essential activities such as MDT supply and logistics.

With WHO support, African national leprosy control programmes have achieved the following:

  • A dramatic decrease in the regional disease burden from an estimated 2 million in 1985 to 35,833 cases at the end of 2007.
  • Elimination of the disease (a prevalence rate of less than one case per 10 000 persons) from all 46 countries where it had been considered a public health problem in 1985.
  • Widespread use of Multi drug therapy (MDT)
  • Over the past 20 years, more than 2 million leprosy patients have been cured in the Region;

WHO/AFRO collaborates with a number of partners including The Nippon Foundation and Novartis Foundation which has pledged to donate adequate supply of medications against leprosy until complete elimination is achieved.

The focal person for LF elimination within the regional program for the control of neglected diseases is Dr Bidé Landry: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Related links

WHO Leprosy Elimination Goodwill Ambassador, Yohei Sasakawa, visits Malawi