Today marks a significant step forward in the prevention and treatment of leprosy as the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) and American Leprosy Missions announce the start of a Phase 1 clinical trial in humans for a promising leprosy vaccine candidate—the first vaccine developed specifically for leprosy.
Characterized by the World Health Organization as a "neglected tropical disease," leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease) is one of the most ancient diseases known to humankind and is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. Nearly a quarter of a million people worldwide have leprosy, which causes disfiguration of the skin and mucous membranes as well as progressive and incurable nerve damage. While drug therapy exists for leprosy, it must be taken for many months, has many side effects and often is given too late to reverse the permanent damage caused by the bacterial infection. A viable vaccine to prevent and/or treat leprosy is the next step in the effort to bring this disease to an end.