Review of current research in the prevention of nerve damage in leprosy

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Nerve damage and the consequences of nerve damage set leprosy apart from other diseases. The irreversible motor and sensory impairments caused by leprosy lead to increasing secondary impairments long after the disease process has been arrested. Interventions that prevent, reverse or limit the impairments resulting from leprosy are, therefore, of the highest priority. Self-care has been demonstrated to be an effective means of preventing secondary tissue damage, and its implementation must now be encouraged within the framework of basic health care. Currently, a comprehensive effort has been made to address all dimensions of impairment of nerve function and its consequences, from prevention of both primary and secondary impairments to interventions in long-term nerve damage. The BANDS prospective study of a cohort of 2664 previously untreated leprosy patients in Bangladesh has provided both a valuable baseline and insight into the epidemiology of nerve damage in leprosy. This work has defined the numbers of patients who present with acute nerve damage, the numbers who are not treated, and the importance of the MB classification, and has described the simple clinical prediction rule. This study also provided the basis for the development of the three TRIPOD randomized clinical trials in Nepal and Bangladesh. Follow-up of the BANDS cohort, which is continuing, will yield more data on the natural history of nerve damage. The encouraging results from the TRIPOD trials of low-dose prophylactic steroids will be followed up, to see whether the effect is sustained over time. The TRIPOD trials are to be completed, a trial of three steroid regimens in reversal reaction is to be completed, and a number of specific research topics within the ILEP programme, INFIR, are to be developed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalLeprosy Review
Publication statusPublished - 2000




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