In DepthPUBLIC HEALTH

India resurrects forgotten leprosy vaccine

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 999
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6342.999

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Summary

India is launching a new assault against an age-old scourge: leprosy. Its weapon is a moderately effective vaccine created in the early 1990s and then shelved when drug treatment proved successful. Introduction of the vaccine, which contains a killed mycobacterium—a distant relative of the leprosy organism—began early last month in the state of Gujarat in western India, and it will soon be deployed in Bihar state, in the east. The goal is to break the chain of transmission of the debilitating disease, which stubbornly persists in India despite the availability of a drug regimen that can cure it. But some critics, citing the vaccine's modest efficacy in early trials, see it as a costly distraction from the more urgent task of identifying and treating cases as early as possible.