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National Leprosy Eradication Programme 


The Central government has approved a new treatment regimen for leprosy, aiming to stop its transmission at the sub-national level by 2027, three years ahead of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP): Advancing Towards Zero Transmission
  2. What is Leprosy?
  3. Leprosy Prevalence Worldwide and in India: A Persistent Challenge

National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP): Advancing Towards Zero Transmission

NLEP Objectives:
  • A centrally sponsored scheme falling under the National Health Mission (NHM), NLEP targets a significant reduction in the Prevalence Rate of leprosy.
  • Objectives include achieving a Prevalence Rate of less than 1/10,000 population at the district level, reducing Grade II Disability rate to zero, and eliminating Grade II Disability among new cases and child leprosy cases.
  • Generating awareness about leprosy disease is also a key focus.
Major Initiatives:
  • Leprosy Case Detections Campaign (LCDC) in high endemic districts.
  • Focused Leprosy Campaign (FLC) in low endemic districts for case detection.
  • Special plans for Hard-to-Reach areas to ensure early case detection and treatment.
  • ASHA Based Surveillance for Leprosy Suspects (ABSULS).
  • Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign on January 30th every year.
  • Active Case Detection and Surveillance in both rural and urban areas.
Recent Developments:
  • The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has affirmed that NLEP is actively working to halt leprosy transmission.
  • The government’s approval of a new treatment regimen aims to achieve zero transmission at the sub-national level by 2027, aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare plans to introduce a three-drug regimen for Pauci-Bacillary cases, replacing the current two-drug regimen for six months.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to supply the revised drug regimen from April 1, 2025, prompting states and union territories to submit drug requisitions 12 months in advance.

What is Leprosy?

  • Leprosy is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
  • It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose, and the upper respiratory tract.
  • Leprosy is also known as Hansens disease.
  • Hansen’s disease produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. If it isn’t treated, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability.
  • Hansen’s disease is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history. The first known written reference to Hansen’s disease is from around 600 B.C.
  • Hansen’s disease is common in many countries, especially those with tropical or subtropical climates.
  • It’s not very common in the United States.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source reports that only 150 to 250 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.

What are the symptoms?

  • The main symptoms of Hansens disease include:
    • muscle weakness
    • numbness in the hands, arms, feet, and legs
    • skin lesions
  • The skin lesions result in decreased sensation to touch, temperature, or pain.
  • They don’t heal, even after several weeks.
  • They’re lighter than your normal skin tone or they may be reddened from inflammation.

How does it spread?

  • The bacterium Mycobacterium leprae causes Hansen’s disease.
  • It’s thought that Hansen’s disease spreads through contact with the mucosal secretions of a person with the infection. This usually occurs when a person with Hansen’s disease sneezes or coughs.
  • The disease isn’t highly contagious.
  • However, close, repeated contact with an untreated person for a longer period of time can lead to contracting Hansen’s disease.
  • The bacterium responsible for Hansen’s disease multiplies very slowly. The disease has an average incubation period (the time between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) of five years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leprosy Prevalence Worldwide and in India: A Persistent Challenge

Global Overview:
  • Leprosy, tracing back to 600 B.C., remains one of the oldest documented diseases in history.
  • As a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), leprosy persists in more than 120 countries, contributing to a significant global health burden.
  • NTDs, encompassing various conditions caused by diverse pathogens, result in severe health, social, and economic consequences.
  • In 2022, a total of 182 countries reported a registered prevalence of 1,65,459 existing cases and 1,74,087 new cases of leprosy.
Leprosy in India:
  • Despite India achieving the status of “Leprosy Eliminated” in 2005, it continues to bear the brunt, accounting for over half (52%) of the world’s new leprosy cases.
  • Several states, including Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli, and Daman Diu, have one or more districts (totaling 82 districts) that are yet to achieve the leprosy elimination target, highlighting the persistent challenges in combating the disease.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024