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    Leprosy: an urgent need to step up use of MDT in Africa.

    McDougall AC

    AFRICA HEALTH. 1992 Jan; 14(2):31, 34-5.

    10-12 million people in the world have leprosy. India claims about 4 million of these cases. Overall at least 20% of the cases are children. In the 1940s, dapsone was the only drug used to treat leprosy. By the early 1970s, dapsone did not perform as expected and Mycobacterium leprae were beginning to exhibit resistance to dapsone. In 1982, WHO published results of its study which recommended fixed and relatively short duration regimens of multiple drug therapy (MDT) for all people with leprosy. It also listed recommendations on diagnosis, classification, and distribution of patients to either pauci or multibacillary groups. MDT depends on what type of leprosy patients have. For example, patients with multibacillary leprosy receive rifampicin, clofazimine, and dapsone whereas those with paucibacillary leprosy receive only rifampicin. In many African countries, however, MDT is not used. Yet cases of leprosy exist in 94% of Africa's countries. Moreover 37% have highly prevalent leprosy and the lowest percentage of patients on MDT (18% vs. world average of 56%). In fact, Nigeria is included in the group of 5 countries with 84% of all cases. Until the various countries in Africa can satisfy the ideal requirements for establishing a MDT program, they should begin MDT at least on a small scale. They do need, however, an adequate supply of the drugs. The other requirements include a good plan of action, laboratory facilities, transport, and referral centers. If the period of time needed to meet these requirements is long, then physicians should conduct pre MDT screenings to diagnose cases and determine who needs chemotherapy. The best way to diagnose cases is from clinical experience and paying particular attention to dermatological and neurological findings. Early identification is needed since leprosy cases are stigmatized. This article includes MDT dosages in adults and children.
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