Background: Many of the tropical diseases are neglected by the researchers and medicinal companies due to lack of profit and other interests. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is established to overcome the problems associated with these neglected diseases. According to a report published by the WHO, leprosy (Hansen's disease) is also a neglected infectious disease.
Methods: A negligible amount of advancements has been made in last few decades which includes the tools of diagnosis, causes, treatment, and genetic studies of the bacterium (Mycobacterium leprae) that causes leprosy. The diagnosis of leprosy at earlier stages is important for its effective treatment. Recent studies on vitamin D and its receptors make leprosy diagnosis easier at earlier stages. Skin biopsies and qPCR are the other tools to identify the disease at its initial stages.
Results: Until now a specific drug for the treatment of leprosy is not available, therefore, Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) is used, which is hazardous to health. Besides Mycobacterium leprae, recently a new bacterium Mycobacterium lepromatosis was also identified as a cause of leprosy. During the last few years the genetic studies of Mycobacterium leprae, the role of vitamin D and vitamin D receptors (VDR), and the skin biopsies made the treatment and diagnosis of leprosy easier at early stages. The studies of micro RNAs (miRNAs) made it easy to differentiate leprosy from other diseases especially from tuberculosis.
Conclusion: Leprosy can be distinguished from sarcoidosis by quantitative study of reticulin fibers present in skin. The treatment used until now for leprosy is multi-drug treatment. The complete genome identification of Mycobacterium leprae makes the research easy to develop target specified drugs for leprosy. Rifampicin, identified as a potent drug, along with other drugs in uniform multi-drug treatment, has a significant effect when given to leprosy patients at initial stages. These are effective treatments but a specific drug for leprosy is still needed to be identified. The current review highlights the use of modern methods for the identification of leprosy at its earlier stages and the effective use of drugs alone as well as in combination.