The number of new patients diagnosed with leprosy has plateaued at 200,000–250,000 per year for the last ten years, and the disease remains endemic in several countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The challenge of covering the last mile to make leprosy history is to interrupt its transmission.
The Leprosy Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (LPEP) program is designed to evaluate the feasibility of contact tracing and preventative treatment with a single dose of rifampicin (post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP) in pilot areas of several countries, and to determine its impact on leprosy case detection rates.
Besides the national leprosy programs of the eight countries where LPEP is implemented, our partners include different International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) members – Netherlands Leprosy Relief, FAIRMED, American Leprosy Missions and the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association – and two academic institutions, the Erasmus University Medical Center and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.
In 2016, Brazil and Cambodia joined India, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar, Tanzania and Sri Lanka in rolling-out LPEP. The program will run until 2018 (except in Cambodia where it will finish in 2019). The ultimate goal of LPEP is to integrate its results and lessons learned into national policy to spearhead widespread implementation. Within this program, we also collaborate with the local authorities to strengthen national leprosy surveillance systems, so that they become more action-oriented and include contact tracing and PEP. By building the knowledge on the most effective and feasible approach to operationalize contact tracing and LPEP nationwide, we jointly developed practical guidelines for rolling out these activities, so that countries can ensure sustainability and long-term success.
The LPEP strategy of contact tracing and post-exposure-prophylaxis has now been included in the revised World Health Organization (WHO) Global Leprosy Elimination Strategy for 2016–2020.
In September 2016, the LPEP research protocol was published in BMJ Open.
More information can be found on our website novartisfoundation.org