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Leprosy therapy, past and present: can we hope to eliminate it?

Leprosy remains an important problem globally. Timely detection of new cases and prompt treatment with MDT continue to be the main intervention strategies. We review the various issues related to classification, treatment, drug resistance and the possible steps to eliminate the disease in the near future. The need for newer anti leprosy agents has been felt and various agents like fluroquinolones, macrolides and minocycline have all been tried in various combinations and duration. Uniform MDT in all leprosy patients might be a logical one too. Drug resistance can be identified by PCR based DNA sequence analysis which saves much time. Drugs like thalidomide analogues, pentoxifylline, selective cytokine inhibitory drugs have proved effective in controlling type-2 reaction in leprosy patients. New drugs for leprosy reactions are still needed. Far from being eliminated as a public health problem, leprosy still causes a considerable long term morbidity in both developing and developed world. New treatment and the optimal length of MDT requires further research. We need genome based technology to address the unresolved issues of transmission of M. leprae.

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