G.P Talwar, the founder-director of National Institute of Immunology (NII), has developed a first-of-its-kind, exclusive and indigenous leprosy vaccine in India. The vaccine, mycobacterium indicus pranii, has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) department of the US.
A pilot run of the vaccine will be conducted across five districts in Bihar and Gujarat in a few weeks.
Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr
“It is the first vaccine for leprosy, and India will be the first to have a large-scale vaccination programme. Trials have shown that if the vaccine is given to people in close contact with the affected, cases can be brought down by 60% in three years. It expedites cure rate if given to people with skin lesions,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, at the National Awareness Convention on Leprosy organised in Chennai.
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Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Union Health Minister, added that a vaccination programme will be implemented in high-prevalence districts across the country if the pilot phase is successful. The government had begun screening in 50 high prevalence districts and the next phase will cover 165 endemic districts including Erode. About 7.5 crore people have been screened, out of which 5,000 were diagnosed with leprosy.
“We don’t want to leave any person. Those diagnosed will be given treatment. Those living in close contact will be given a dose of antibiotic Rifampicin,” Dr. Soumya added.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, leprosy affected 1.27 lakh Indians from 2013-14. Let’s hope that this novel invention creates awareness about this disease across India.