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Preventing leprosy with retrospective active case finding combined with single-dose rifampicin for contacts in a low endemic setting: results of the Leprosy post-exposure prophylaxis program in Cambodia

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) with single-dose rifampicin (SDR) reduces the risk of developing leprosy among contacts of leprosy patients. Most evidence for the feasibility of the intervention is from highly endemic settings while low-endemic areas present unique challenges including reduced awareness of the disease among the population and in the health system, and the only sporadic occurrence of cases which together make defining any type of routine process challenging.

We complemented the retrospective active case finding (RACF) approach with SDR administration to eligible contacts, and piloted the intervention across 31 operational districts in Cambodia. The aim was to demonstrate the feasibility of improving early case detection and administering SDR in a low endemic setting. The intervention focused on leprosy patients diagnosed since 2011 and was implemented between October 2016 – September 2019. The “drives” approach was employed to trace contacts: a trained team systematically contacted all eligible cases in a district, traced and screened contacts, and administered SDR.

A total of 555 index patients were traced by the drive team, and 10,410 contacts in their household and 5 immediate neighbor houses listed. Among them, 72.0% could be screened while most others were absent on the screening day. A total of 33 new leprosy cases were diagnosed and 6,189 contacts received SDR (82.6% of the screened contacts). Sixty-one contacts refused SDR administration.

We conclude that integrating PEP with SDR in RACF campaigns is feasible, and that this approach is feasible in low resource and low endemic settings. Over time, evidence on whether or not the approach reduced leprosy transmission in Cambodia, may become clear.

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Journal Article
Cavaliero A
Sao SA
Aerts A
Lay S
So V
Robijn J
Steinmann P