Advances and hurdles on the way toward a leprosy vaccine.
Prevalence rates for leprosy have declined sharply over the past 20 y, with this decline generally attributed to the WHO multi-drug therapy (MDT) campaign to provide free-of-charge treatment to all diagnosed leprosy patients. The success of this program appears to have reached its nadir, however, as evidenced by the stalled decreases in both global prevalence and new case detection rates of leprosy. Mass BCG vaccination for the prevention of tuberculosis (TB) at national levels has had a positive effect on leprosy decline and is often overlooked as an important factor in current leprosy control programs. Because BCG provides incomplete protection against both TB and leprosy, newer more effective TB vaccines are being developed. The impact that application of these vaccines will have on current leprosy control programs is unclear. In this review, we assess the need for vaccines within leprosy control programs. We summarize and discuss leprosy vaccine strategies that have been deployed previously and discuss those strategies that are currently being developed to augment recent breakthroughs in leprosy control.