Revista Brasileira de Epidemiologia
Print version ISSN 1415-790X
MARTELLI, Celina Maria Turchi; STEFANI, Mariane Martins de Araújo; PENNA, Gerson Oliveira and ANDRADE, Ana Lúcia S. S. de. Brazilian endemisms and epidemics, challenges and prospects for scientific investigation: leprosy. Rev. bras. epidemiol. [online]. 2002, vol.5, n.3, pp. 273-285. ISSN 1415-790X. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1415-790X2002000300006.
At the beginning of the millennium the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem was considered an attainable goal worldwide. Brazil is the only Latin American country where leprosy is still endemic and the elimination goal has been postponed to 2005. In this review, we discuss the currently declining prevalence after the implementation of multi-drug therapy (MDT), without the reduction in incidence in the same period. The progress in the fields of immunology, molecular biology and the recent accomplishment of M. leprae genomic sequence indicate the new tools potentially applicable to leprosy diagnosis, prognosis and surveillance. Despite the success of the current public health strategy there is a global concern about the lack of interest and financial support for leprosy research, for the maintenance and improvement of field expertise in public health. The exclusion of leprosy among public health priorities was premature and represents a real threat of not eliminating leprosy, but leprosy research. It is necessary to generate knowledge on basic and applied research for understanding the mechanism of transmission of the infection, and to test new preventive and therapeutic tools in order to achieve the "eradication" of the M. leprae infection. Maintenance and field expertise are essential for leprosy surveillance during and after its elimination.
Keywords : Leprosy Research; Leprosy elimination; Surveillance.