Leprosy can only be eliminated if we can prevent people from developing leprosy and if we can stop the transmission of the leprosy bacteria. NLR’s programme on Zero Transmission of leprosy combines years of organisational experience in the field of leprosy control with promising innovations that help to prevent leprosy and diagnose and treat patients as early as possible.
There is a great deal of momentum to work towards Zero Transmission. Not only because ILEP’s strategy and the WHO’s
Global Leprosy Strategy also formulated Zero Transmission as one of its goals, but also because new scientific findings, such as
preventive medication, have brought this goal closer in sight. In 2018 the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy (GPZL) was formed.
NLR is an active member of this wide group of stakeholders that are highly motivated and committed to end leprosy. Governments are clearly demonstrating their commitment through involvement in several multi-country NLR coordinated projects, such as the Stop the Transmission of Leprosy! Project, PEP4LEP and Ready4PEP. All projects use innovative approaches to work towards Zero Transmission.
First priority is to decrease the risk that direct contacts of persons affected develop leprosy themselves. A proven game-changer in the fight agains leprosy transmission is a widely available antibiotic: a single dose of rifampicin (SDR-PEP). A preventative treatment for leprosy. SDR-PEP is given to direct contacts of newly diagnosed leprosy patients to decrease their risk of developing the disease. Since 2015, we have implemented the programme in India, Indonesia, and Nepal in close collaboration with these countries’ Ministries of Health, other ILEP (International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations) members, under coordination of and supported by Novartis Foundation.
Going further than ever before to stop leprosy transmission
Between 2018 and 2022, we will be fully dedicating our efforts to go further than ever before in stopping the transmission of leprosy in an innovative project which is funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery through its “Dream Fund.” In this project, we screen direct contacts of new cases using a screening test that can detect leprosy at a subclinical stage. Those that test positive are given an enhanced prophylactic treatment, which we have named PEP++. Other contacts will receive a single dose of rifampicin (SDR-PEP).
Generating scientific evidence
This programme is not only directly making a huge difference in preventing new cases of leprosy. It is also generating scientific evidence with which we can inform and influence governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), and investors to follow this path towards stopping transmission.