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Current Affairs 2023

Leprosy - UPSC Current Affairs

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, affecting skin & nerves. Transmitted via droplets from untreated cases, it is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT). Leprosy is reported globally, with majority of new cases from SE Asia. Early treatment can prevent disability. Elimination as public health problem globally was achieved in 2000.

Jan 30, 2023

2 min read

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. The disease primarily affects the skin and peripheral nerves, leading to progressive and permanent disabilities if left untreated. Transmission occurs through close and frequent contact with untreated cases, where droplets from the nose and mouth are spread. Leprosy is curable through multi-drug therapy (MDT) consisting of dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine.




Leprosy is still a problem in over 120 countries, with 200,000 new cases reported annually. While most countries have eliminated it as a public health problem by 2010, Brazil, India, and Indonesia still report over 10,000 new cases each year. The disease is diagnosed clinically and through laboratory tests, and is classified into two types for treatment purposes: Paucibacillary (PB) and Multibacillary (MB). PB cases have 1 to 5 skin lesions, while MB cases have more than 5 skin lesions or nerve involvement.


Treatment for leprosy involves 6 months of MDT for PB cases and 12 months for MB cases, and early diagnosis and treatment can prevent disabilities. Prevention involves tracing household, neighborhood, and social contacts of patients with MDT and a single dose of rifampicin as preventive chemotherapy.


WHO provides technical support to member states and has released the global leprosy strategy 2021-2030, aiming for a vision of zero leprosy: zero infection and disease, zero disability, and zero stigma. Through this, WHO collates epidemiological data, provides technical support, and works towards eradicating leprosy globally.


In conclusion, leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, curable through MDT, and still a problem in over 120 countries. WHO is actively working towards its elimination through technical support, data collation, and the global leprosy strategy 2021-2030. 


Based on inputs from the World Health Organization. Image: Leprosy Mission Australia

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