A first-of-its-kind leprosy vaccine developed in India is to be launched on a pilot basis in five districts in Bihar and Gujarat. If it shows good results, the vaccine programme will be extended to other high-prevalence districts in the country, said Soumya Swaminathan, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research.
Dr. Swaminathan was speaking at a National Awareness Convention on Leprosy organised here by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai, and Saksham, Nagpur.
The disease, caused by the bacteria,Mycobacterium leprae , affects around 1.25 lakh people every year in India. Sixty per cent of the world’s leprosy patients live in India. The vaccine, called Mycobacterium indicus pranii (MIP), will be administered as a preventive measure to people living in close contact with those infected. It was developed by the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, and has been by approved by Drug Controller General of India and the FDA in the U.S., she said.
Dr. Swaminthan said trials had shown that the vaccine, if given to people in close contact with affected persons, could bring down cases by 60 per cent in three years. It expedited cure rates if given to people with skin lesions, she said.
Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said the government had begun screening in 50 high prevalence districts.
A total of 7.5 crore people were screened out of which 5,000 had leprosy. The next phase will cover 163 districts including Erode.