Leprosy: current diagnostic and treatment approaches

Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2003 Oct;16(5):421-7. doi: 10.1097/00001432-200310000-00008.


Purpose of review: Leprosy remains an important problem globally and leprosy patients may present to physicians outside leprosy endemic areas. We review the recent biological and clinical advances in leprosy.

Recent findings: Sequencing the genome has been a major biological advance and will open up new possibilities for research. The three cardinal criteria (anaesthetic skin patches, thickened nerves and acid-fast bacilli in skin smears) have not yet been bettered. Multidrug therapy for leprosy is highly effective with low relapse rates though the optimal duration of therapy for multibacillary patients is unclear. Nerve damage remains a significant problem (in some series only 50% responding to steroid therapy). New treatments for leprosy reactions are needed. Stigma remains a problem but is being combated by patient groups.

Summary: Far from being eliminated as a public health problem, leprosy still causes a considerable long-term morbidity in both the developing and developed world. New treatments for leprosy reactions are needed and the optimal length of multidrug therapy required further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Leprostatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Leprosy / diagnosis*
  • Leprosy / prevention & control*
  • Mycobacterium leprae / genetics


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Leprostatic Agents