World Health Organization (WHO) antibiotic regimen against other regimens for the treatment of leprosy: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BMC Infect Dis. 2020 Jan 20;20(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s12879-019-4665-0.


Background: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the World Health Organization antibiotic regimen for the treatment of paucibacillary (PB) and multibacillary (MB) leprosy compared to other available regimens.

Methods: We performed a search from 1982 to July 2018 without language restriction. We included randomized controlled trials, quasi-randomized trials, and comparative observational studies (cohorts and case-control studies) that enrolled patients of any age with PB or MB leprosy that were treated with any of the leprosy antibiotic regimens established by the WHO in 1982 and used any other antimicrobial regimen as a controller. Primary efficacy outcomes included: complete clinical cure, clinical improvement of the lesions, relapse rate, treatment failure. Data were pooled using a random effects model to estimate the treatment effects reported as relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: We found 25 eligible studies, 11 evaluated patients with paucibacillary leprosy, while 13 evaluated patients with MB leprosy and 1 evaluated patients of both groups. Diverse regimen treatments and outcomes were studied. Complete cure at 6 months of multidrug therapy (MDT) in comparison to rifampin-ofloxacin-minocycline (ROM) found RR of 1.06 (95% CI 0.88-1.27) in five studies. Whereas six studies compare the same outcome at different follow up periods between 6 months and 5 years, according to the analysis ROM was not better than MDT (RR of 1.01 (95% CI 0.78-1.31)) in PB leprosy.

Conclusion: Not better treatment than the implemented by the WHO was found. Diverse outcome and treatment regimens were studied, more statements to standardized the measurements of outcomes are needed.

Keywords: Leprosy; Systematic review; Treatment; World Health Organization.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leprostatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Leprostatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Leprosy, Multibacillary / drug therapy*
  • Leprosy, Paucibacillary / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minocycline / adverse effects
  • Minocycline / therapeutic use*
  • Mycobacterium leprae / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium leprae / isolation & purification
  • Neglected Diseases / drug therapy
  • Ofloxacin / adverse effects
  • Ofloxacin / therapeutic use*
  • Recurrence
  • Rifampin / adverse effects
  • Rifampin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Failure
  • World Health Organization*
  • Young Adult


  • Leprostatic Agents
  • Ofloxacin
  • Minocycline
  • Rifampin