A Vaccine for Leprosy

What is Leprosy and is there a Leprosy Vaccine?

"Mycobacterium leprae." www.who.int/lep/disease/frmain.htm

Leprosy (or Hansen’s Disease) is a communicable disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. M.leprae is an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus that mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes. It mainly affects the skin and nerves and progresses slowly with an average incubation period of three years. The earliest documented account of leprosy is around 1550 B.C. on Egyptian papyrus. Throughout its history, leprosy has been feared and misunderstood, often thought to be a hereditary disease, a curse, or a punishment from God. Leprosy has been treated in many ways throughout history, from using the oil of a chaulmoogra nut in the early twentieth century, prominin in 1941, Dapsone pills in 1950, to the highly effective multi-drug therapy regimen (consisting of rifampin, clofazimine, and dapsone). Fortunately, if detected early and treated with multi-drug therapy, leprosy will not lead to deformities and leprosy patients can lead
completely normal lives.

Global efforts have been trying to reduce the disease burden of leprosy and proceed toward eradication for over twenty years. Elimination of an infectious disease such as leprosy requires a highly effective vaccine. This website focuses on the development of the leprosy research and progression towards a universally accepted vaccine. Various countries around the world, namely India and Brazil, currently use the Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine for tuberculosis to double as a leprosy vaccine, as the two diseases are caused by similar mycobacterial agents. However, the effectiveness of this approach is widely disputable, and the quest still continues, in the United States and worldwide, for a universally accepted and unquestionably effective leprosy vaccine.

Kiyana Harris, Class of 2007, kjharris@stanford.edu
Stanford University
Parasites & Pestilence: Infectious Public Health Challenges
Prof. D. Scott Smith, ssmith@stanford.edu