The world’s first leprosy vaccine is currently under development and going through preclinical trials. It is expected to enter human trials by the end of 2015. This project is being developed by the Infectous Disease Research Institute (IDRI) and the American Leprosy Missions (ALM) in collaboration with Cebu Leprosy and Tuberculosis Research Foundation in the Philippines.
This project has been ongoing for 12 years trying to develop a vaccine and diagnostic test for Mycobacterium leprae. Approximately US$4m has been spent on this project and according to ALM communications director Sarah Hesshaus, it has been a difficult journey as M. leprae “grows very slowly and is notoriously difficult to grow in laboratories”.
Malcom Duthie, the head researcher for the project at IDRI states that development could take significant time as “safety and efficacy are of utmost importance” and that this project has required a lot of hard work and care.
As the entire genome for the bacteria has been mapped and identified, development for the vaccine has been faster than it has ever been. The most important aspect is that by creating a vaccine for leprosy, the social stigma surrounding lepers in less developed countries can be eradicated.