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Learning about the leprosy project.

Who says no long-term good comes out of winning a lottery?

In fact, with funding from the Dutch lottery the Netherlands Leprosy Relief organization, now has a project underway in Indonesia to help those who may be touched by leprosy. Why Indonesia? Along with Brazil and India, it has one of the world’s largest burdens of leprosy. These three countries account for 81 percent of the newly diagnosed and reported cases of leprosy globally.

I recently spent time in Indonesia as part of this project, which is called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) ++, that also involves partnering with the University of Airlangga, the second oldest university in Indonesia.

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IDRI’s leprosy test in use.

The goal of the project is to identify leprosy patients and then screen their family and neighborhood contacts so that we can stop Mycobacterium leprae (the bacterium that causes leprosy) infection before it progresses to disease. Interrupting infection in its early stages before its effects become physically evident, which can lead to stigma and discrimination, is a critical step in the overall control of leprosy. We’ve integrated the leprosy test that utilizes IDRI technologies into the process as a means to deter
mine who should receive antibiotics and, in time, we will identify the predictive value of IDRI’s leprosy test.

I was proud to take part in the project kick-off to provide training and oversight as we shift from treatment of disease to curtailing infection with antibiotics; IDRI’s goal is to have a vaccine that can act even earlier than that, preventing infection and disease and, hopefully, bringing an end to leprosy.