Leprosy of the Past and Today

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Despite enhanced disease control efforts, leprosy remains an important cause of disability in several countries. Being based on case detection, the exact prevalence of the disease is not easily estimated. Currently around 600,000 new cases are treated annually. Advances in immunology and molecular biology have led to a greater understanding of the disease and to hopes for improved diagnostic tests and vaccination strategies. The major advance, though, is the development of highly effective combination drug regimens which, provided all doses are taken, rarely fails to cure. The challenge to leprosy control services is to overcome the stigma associated with the disease so that patients present with minimal lesions and before disabilities have developed. Although it is hoped that leprosy as a serious public health problem will be eliminated within a few years, continuing care for those suffering from deformity and rejection by society will be required for several decades.

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