WHO calls for stepped-up fight against leprosy

February 13, 2012

The World Health Organization called Monday for greater efforts to fight leprosy, warning the disfiguring disease was defying efforts to wipe it out across many countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We opened the champagne too early," said Shin Young-soo, chairman of the WHO's Western-Pacific region that covers 37 countries at the start of a three-day conference looking at how to combat leprosy and treat its victims.

There are 5,000 new cases being reported each year in the Western Pacific, according to Shin.

He said the problem was most severe in Micronesia, the and Kiribati, which had failed to meet the WHO's technical definition of "elimination" of fewer than one case per 10,000 people.

Even in the , where the disease was officially "eliminated" in 1998, 2,000 new cases are still recorded every year, according to Shin.

Outside of the Western Pacific, the problem is worse.

India leads the world with more than 130,000 new leprosy cases every year since 2006, while Brazil is second with about 40,000 new cases annually, according to WHO documents.

Shin called for a renewed commitment to fight leprosy, stressing that it had to be long-term because the disease could incubate for as long as 20 years.

"We have the drugs, we have the knowledge. It does not take a lot of money. We must make a final push," he said.

Leprosy is an infectious that has been recorded for thousands of years. If left untreated it can damage the nerves, leading to in the extremities of the body and horrible disfigurements.

However it is curable with early detection and modern drugs.

The WHO has been providing free drug therapy to patients anywhere in the world since 1995.

Shin said that, with the medical hurdles overcome, the major challenge in countries with enduring leprosy was to ensure long-term commitment from governments.

Explore further: WHO warns leprosy spreading in India

Related Stories

WHO warns leprosy spreading in India

August 6, 2011
Six years after leprosy was declared officially eliminated in India, officials and doctors are warning that the disfiguring disease is spreading in poverty-stricken pockets of the country.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.