Leprosy treatment

Leprosy is a disease that is caused by bacteria. It is chronic, and until the early 1940’s it was virtually untreatable. The result was that the leprosy would attack the body systematically, causing irreversible damage to occur to the limbs, nerves, skin, and even eyes. The disease was something that would cause a person to become horribly disfigured as their body parts would often have to be amputated as the disease caused more and more problems. Leprosy has afflicted people for at least the last four thousand years, possibly longer, and those who were diagnosed with the disease were ostracized and scorned. However, with the development of leprosy treatment more than fifteen million people across the globe have been successfully treated for leprosy.

The leprosy treatment that was developed in the 1940’s was known as dapsone, which is a bactericide against the primary bacteria that is the root cause for the development of leprosy. The downside to this treatment was two-fold. First, if it were used by itself, the bacteria would become immune to the drug. Secondly, it was something that the patient would be required to take for the rest of their lives in order to ensure that the bacteria would not be able to successfully re-establish itself.

By the 1960’s the only drug that had ever been used as a leprosy treatment, dapsone, was almost completely useless because of the problem of resistance. Over time nearly all of the patients that had been taking the drug for an extended period of time had developed some form of resistance to it. It was then that scientists found two other drugs, clofazimine and rifampicin, which could also be used. However, researchers still faced the possibility that people could develop some type of resistance to these new drugs as well. This was a problem that they knew had to be resolved before the issue of leprosy could be put to rest.

As a result of this, doctors began trying a combination of two drugs at once, the most common therapy consisting of rifampicin and dapsone. This dual antibiotic combination was intended to help keep the body on a continuously rotating cycle of two different antibiotic regimens so that it could not become too accustomed to a single type and developing a resistance. The theory was one of the first times that using a rotating multidrug schedule was implemented, but since patients had to rely on these drugs permanently, there was still the possibility that they could develop a resistance to either one of the two that they were using.

It was because of this that in 1981 doctors decided that using just two of the drugs was still taking too much of a risk with the treatment, so a complete multidrug regimen with all three antibiotics was put into place, and it was considered to be so successful by the World Health Organization that it is a tactic that is still commonly used today. It is one of the reasons that more than fifteen million people are considered to have been cured from the disease worldwide.

However, the strengths of the drugs given, and the different combinations and regimens that are used still depend on the type of case that doctors feel like they are dealing with. One common obstacle to getting this successful leprosy treatment to many people in impoverished areas was the large cost of the medications. Not to mention the fact that in many of these countries common folklore and tradition often claims that people who have been afflicted with leprosy are done so because they have been deemed unworthy or unclean by god. This has led many to turn their backs on leprosy patients, thereby making it harder to detect the disease and to treat it effectively.

Last updated on Feb 15th, 2010 and filed under Other Conditions & Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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