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Anti-Leprosy Vaccine (Hansen’s Disease Vaccine)
Leprosy also known as Hansen’s disease is an age-old disease, caused by the acid-fast bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. It is classified by WHO as a ‘neglected tropical disease’. The disease is characterized by anaesthetic skin patches, nerve damage and progressive deformity and disability. Nearly a quarter of a million people worldwide have leprosy, out of which 60% is from India. Leprosy is curable with a treatment known as multidrug therapy (MDT) taken for 6–12 months. Drug therapy has adverse effects and reversing the damage caused by the bacteria takes long. A viable vaccine would be useful to decrease the incidence of the disease and promote eradication. Mycobacterium indicus pranii (MIP) is an exclusive vaccine for leprosy which has been developed in India. It is believed that MIP has the potential to bring down new cases of leprosy by 60% in 3 years. Extensive field tests were carried out to check the efficacy of MIP. In 2005, large-scale field trials were conducted at Ghatampur, Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh. About 24,000 people who had close contact with people affected by leprosy were vaccinated with MIP. The protective power of MIP was encouraging: 68.6% were protected for 4 years, and 59% were protected for 8 years. Thus, it was found that the vaccine was effective for 7–8 years, and after that, a booster dose was needed to maintain immunity. One of the greatest barriers to ending leprosy is the stigma which still persists in India, with numerous laws discriminating against people affected by the disease. This discourages others from seeking treatment because they fear being banished once people know that they have the disease. The battle against leprosy must be fought on many fronts if this neglected complex tropical disease is to be eradicated. This vaccine will be a boon to banish the disease and put an end to untold suffering, physical, psychological and social.
Year of Publication
Advances in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology