We have a plan to eradicate leprosy. One person at a time.

Spot it. Treat It. Stop It.

How early someone’s leprosy is spotted is perhaps the most critical factor that decides what the long term impact on their life will be.

testing a boy's arm for leprosy

Staff and volunteers at every single project are on the lookout and able to spot the signs of leprosy.

Community health education programmes raise awareness and understanding of leprosy so that people have the knowledge and confidence to seek treatment when the earliest symptoms appear.

In some countries programmes are part of active schemes to go out into communities specifically to look for leprosy, elsewhere, training for government staff and people from other charities mean that there are many more pairs of eyes ready to spot the signs of leprosy wherever they happen.

Multi-Drug Therapy will treat and cure leprosy.

Girl holding packet of Multi-drug therapy

Getting these pills into people’s hands quickly is vital to preventing them developing potentially life-changing complications and to stopping them spreading it to anyone else.

A full course of drugs lasts for 6 or 12 months and the drugs themselves a free for anyone who needs them. Within just 2 days of starting treatment the person is no longer infectious to anyone else.

Hospitals, clinics and community projects can either prescribe the drugs directly or can quickly and easily refer someone to the right place to get them.

For those cured before serious nerve damage occurs it is likely that they will be able to go through the rest of life without any ill effects from leprosy.

For people whose leprosy has caused further complications, treatment doesn’t stop with Multi-Drug Therapy.

The Leprosy Mission’s hospitals are often seen as Centres of Excellence for the treatment of many of the more advanced complications of leprosy and receive referrals from far and wide.

Boy with protective footwear

For many people serious nerve damage has already happened before they are cured. Many of them will have already developed an impairment, deformity or disability, others will be at significant risk of this happening in the future.

Depending on the level of impairment, we can provide a wide range of support that is needed.

Physiotherapy and a regular programme of self care can often prevent a minor impairment from becoming more serious.

self-care training we can equip them to live and work safely in their own homes and communities. They can strengthen their hands and feet as well as use appropriate tools and safety equipment (like oven gloves and tools with better handles) to reduce the risk of any injury. They will also know how to identify smaller wounds and injuries and have these appropriately treated before they develop into something more serious.

If you can’t feel your feet it is vital that you have shoes that provide protection from injury. Our shoe makers make shoes that not only protect against sharp objects like stones or glass, they can be made to the exact size and shape required to support and already injured or damaged foot.

With reconstructive surgery, many of the deformities associated with leprosy can be corrected. For hands which have become clawed or a foot which has dropped, tendon transfer surgery can work around the problem and restore the movement that has been lost. After extensive physiotherapy patients will be able to walk again without dragging their foot or to grip and manipulate objects with their fingers. A similar technique can help people who have lost the ability to close their eye, risking blindness. A muscle normally used for chewing can be attached to the eyelid allowing them to close their eye by clenching their teeth. After some practice they will be able to keep their eye clean and healthy.

For patients who have lost one of their legs as a result of leprosy, the loss of mobility and independence can have a devastating impact on their life. We can provide a new prosthetic leg in many of the countries where we work allowing them to get back on their feet in every sense. For some people a suitably rugged wheelchair is a better option. With their regained mobility they can build a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

Sometimes, the emotional scars caused by leprosy can be much worse than anything we can see. Counselling and tending to the spiritual emotional needs of people affected by leprosy go hand in hand with our other work to overcome the effects of leprosy. Being diagnosed with leprosy, particularly if this has been accompanied by being stigmatised in the community, can cause people to feel worthless and to lose all sense of hope for the future. By supporting people to deal with these feelings we can help then to rediscover their self-worth and dignity and have the confidence to live a life of dignity and courage.

Within 2 days of starting treatment a person can’t spread their leprosy to anyone else.

As well as limiting the impact of someone’s leprosy on themselves, spotting leprosy early and treating it fast are the most effective ways of stopping spreading to other people.

By removing potential sources of infection from the community we will stop it spreading within the community.

There currently isn’t a vaccine for leprosy.

But research, tests and trials are underway and we hope that there will be one that is proven to be effective relatively soon which can be made widely available.

This will be a real game-changer in making leprosy a thing of the past.

The effects of leprosy aren’t just physical. We need to stop leprosy from condemning people to a life of poverty and discrimination.

Girls studying tailoring

Education is the strongest tool available for families to lift themselves out of poverty. We support families affected by leprosy to be able to send their children to school by tackling community prejudices, providing financial assistance or by helping families to increase their own financial security.

Beyond school, our Vocational Training Centres provide training linked to local business opportunities for young people whose education or employment opportunities have been restricted because of leprosy or disability, either because of their physical limitations or social stigma and prejudice. The training they receive allows them to access job opportunities beyond what many of them might have thought possible and to become financially independent and find respect and equality in their community.

We nurture self-sufficiency among people and communities affected by leprosy by providing business loans, training and support, largely through self-help co-operative groups, so that they can establish small businesses which provide the independence and means to improve their standard of living.

Leprosy is one of the world’s most stigmatised diseases. Still today people affected by leprosy can be marginalised, excluded and mistreated by the communities and societies they live in. It is an issue of basic human rights and we work to tackle both the superstitions and myths that lead to injustice as well as the denial of equality and human rights that are their result.

People affected by leprosy are most empowered when they are accepted back into their communities with a sense of pride, dignity and self-worth. In all of the countries where we work, projects have a strong education component and we bring entire communities together to learn about the causes and consequences of leprosy. Through education we can dispel the myths surrounding the disease and build strong and inclusive families and communities.

By speaking up for the right of people affected by leprosy we can overturn injustice at whatever level of society it occurs. Across the world The Leprosy Mission is part of critical efforts that are changing local, national and international laws that are prejudiced or discriminate against people affected by leprosy.

Spot It, Treat It, Stop It – Won’t Be Possible Without Research.

The Leprosy Mission has a long history of research – which has influenced how leprosy and its complications are managed today:

  • Our surgeons and their teams have been at the forefront of developing innovative techniques for reconstructive surgery for paralysed hands, feet and eyes.
  • Testing new drugs to fight M. leprae – which led to the adoption of multi-drug therapy to treat leprosy.
  • Long, detailed studies have increased our understanding of nerve damage and treatment in leprosy
  • Co-infection research and international partnerships, have helped us to better understand why leprosy reactions happen, identify biomarkers to enable better diagnosis and partner in clinical trials for how to treat them.

But we need to go further. Research going on right now will help in each of the 3 steps we need to take to make leprosy a thing of the past.

The Leprosy Mission’s Research Magazine gives much more detail about some of the exciting research going on around the world right now:

March 2023

July 2022

February 2022

July 2021

January 2021