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New Leprosy Test, Experimental Vaccine Might Hasten Disease Elimination, Slate Reports

Slate examines a new rapid diagnostic test and an experimental vaccine for leprosy, both developed by the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, writing, “The two tools together could finally free humans from the vicious cycle of a disease that has afflicted the population for at least 4,000 years.” According to Slate, “The test and vaccine come at a critical time for the disease, which has been on the wane thanks to massive public health campaigns to distribute free multidrug therapy.” WHO reports a “90 percent decrease in leprosy prevalence since 1991, but active leprosy cases and leprosy-related disabilities still affect more than four million people worldwide,” the news service writes, adding, “For the past 10 years, the number of new cases reported each year has flatlined at 250,000.” However, some experts say the number of new annual cases could be six to eight times higher than WHO estimates, Slate notes (Fisher Kaiser, 2/20).