The first exclusive vaccine for leprosy, made in India, will be piloted in five districts of Bihar and Gujarat in a few weeks as a part of the country’s efforts at eradicating+ the crippling disease+ that affects 1.25 lakh people every year.
About 60% of the global leprosy patients live in India, where detection and treatment+ leave many of them crippled. If the pilot phase shows satisfactory results, the programme will be implemented in other high-prevalence districts+ across the country.
The vaccine, mycobacterium indicus pranii (MIP), will be administered as prevention for people living in close contact with those infected by the bacteria. “It is the first vaccine for leprosy, and India will be the first to have a large-scale vaccination programme. Trials have shown that if the vaccine is given to people in close contact with the affected, cases can be brought down by 60% in three years. It expedites cure rate if given to people with skin lesions,” said Indian Council of Medical Research director general Dr Soumya Swaminathan.
The vaccine developed by founder-director of the National Institute of Immunology (NII) G P Talwar, has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and the US-FDA.
Union health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said the Centre has begun door-to-door screening in 50 high-prevalence districts+ across the country. At least 7.5 crore people have been screened, of which 5,000 have been confirmed with leprosy. The next phase will cover 163 endemic districts including Erode in Tamil Nadu.
“We don’t want to leave any person. Those diagnosed will be given treatment. Those living in close contact will be given a dose of antiobiotic Rifampicin,” the minister told the National Awareness Convention on Leprosy organised by the Sri Ramakrishna Math, Central Leather Research Institute and Saksham.
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