Characteristics of children with leprosy: Factors associated with delay in disease diagnosis.
OBJECTIVES: The objectives of the study were to characterize the clinical profile of childhood leprosy presenting at tertiary leprosy care hospitals in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in India, and to determine the possible risk factors associated with disabilities at presentation.
METHODS: Subjects were children with newly diagnosed leprosy registered for treatment at tertiary Leprosy Mission Hospitals in Muzaffarpur (Bihar), Purulia (West Bengal) and Faizabad (Uttar Pradesh), India, between June and December 2019. Demographic and leprosy characteristics were collected at the time of diagnosis. Parents/guardians were interviewed on reasons for delay in presenting at the hospital. Associations between various factors and delay in diagnosis were assessed.
RESULTS: Among the 84 children, the mean (SD) age was 10 (3) years with a range of 4-14 years. There were more boys (58%) and most children were currently in school (93%), resident in rural areas (90%) and belonged to a lower socioeconomic status (68%). More children were diagnosed with multibacillary leprosy (69%), one-third of them being skin smear positive for Mycobacterium leprae. On presentation, 17% had deformity (5% grade 1 deformity and 12% grade 2), 29% had nerve involvement and skin lesions were spread across the body in half of the children. Mean (SD) duration of delay was 10.5 (9.8) months. Delayed presentation was more in boys (43% vs. 17%; P = 0.01), those without a history of migration for work compared to those who had a history of migration (40% vs. 9%; P = 0.008) and in those children who were from a poor economic status compared with those that came from a better economic status (44% vs. 7%; P = 0.001) Limitations: Because our study was conducted at tertiary care hospitals, the findings are not representative of the situation in the field. Furthermore, a comparison group of newly diagnosed adult leprosy patients with disability could have been included in the study.
CONCLUSION: Childhood leprosy continues to occur in endemic pockets in India and a substantial number present with skin smear positivity and deformity. Guardians of these children cite many reasons for the delay in presentation.