Curing Leprosy


A young mother who has lost some of her fingers to leprosy holds her baby's hand.
Donna Todd, via Flickr

What diseases scare you? Adam Navis and Liz Waid look at the ancient disease leprosy.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Kajal is nine years old. She lives in India with her mother and four brothers and sisters. One and a half years ago, Kajal saw strange white areas of skin on her arms and her back. These white patches of skin began to spread, getting larger. Doctors in her area tried many different medicines to stop the white patches from growing. But nothing worked.

Voice 2 

Kajal’s mother thought that the patches might be a sign of leprosy. So Kajal and her mother and brothers and sisters travelled for two days to an American Leprosy Mission hospital in Nepal. There, doctors discovered that Kajal had severe leprosy. They began treating her.

Voice 1 

Leprosy is an ancient and frightening disease. And it still affects people around the world. But many organizations are working to stop it. Today’s Spotlight is on the methods and tools these organizations are using to get rid of leprosy.

Voice 2

Leprosy often begins as a simple skin condition. A person may notice a small change on his or her skin - like Kajal did. Then the small affected areas grow. But it is not always clear that the cause is leprosy. Malcom Duthie is a scientist at the Infectious Disease Research Institute. He studies leprosy. He told reporter Rachel Solomon:

Voice 3 

“The first way leprosy presents itself is as lesions - damage to the skin. It can look very much like a lot of other diseases. Patients often get treated for the wrong thing.”

Voice 1 

Health workers often waste time treating for common skin conditions. And when leprosy is not treated quickly, it becomes dangerous. A person with leprosy may become blind. And he may lose the sense of feeling in parts of his body. This means he is more likely to become injured. People with leprosy can even lose parts of their bodies because of these injuries. The disease damages a person’s body permanently.

Voice 2 

Because of the way a person’s body looks, people do not want to be near him. It is not easy to get leprosy from another person. But people still fear that they will also get leprosy. This way of thinking is another reason people fear this disease so much. If a person gets leprosy he suffers from the disease. But he also suffers because people do not want to be near him.

Voice 1

Experts are not exactly sure how leprosy spreads. They believe it spreads through a person’s breath. People breathe in the leprosy bacteria from the air around them and become infected. Experts believe that even when leprosy bacteria become dry, they can still spread the disease. Experts cannot grow leprosy bacteria in a laboratory. So, it is difficult to study it.

Voice 2 

Experts do know that a person can have leprosy and not even know it. After the bacteria enter a person’s body, they work very slowly. People can carry leprosy bacteria for five to ten years before they see any sign of it. This means that they can also spread the disease without knowing it.

Voice 1 

But people can cure leprosy. The treatment for leprosy is a combination of drugs. A patient takes the drugs for six months to a year. After the treatment, he is cured. However, any damage to his body is permanent. That is why it is so important to identify leprosy very quickly.

Voice 2

In 1991, the World Health Organization began to offer free drug treatment for any person who had leprosy. And they worked to expand knowledge of the disease. When people know about the disease, they can report it earlier. Today, leprosy is not very common. However, many organizations are working to get rid of leprosy completely.

Voice 1 

Most cases of leprosy are reported in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But hope is coming to these areas. Two new tools promise to change the future for leprosy. The first is a test. And the second is a vaccine.

Voice 2 

A test for leprosy can help people know if they have it - even before they show signs of the disease. The Infectious Disease Research Institute developed this small tester. Many people who have leprosy, or live in areas where leprosy is common, are not able to easily visit a leprosy expert. Local health workers may not be able to easily identify a skin condition as leprosy. However, if a health worker thinks a person might have leprosy, she can use this test. The test can tell her in only a few minutes if a person has leprosy or not.

Voice 1 

The tester is very easy to use. Anyone can use it! A health worker takes a drop of blood from a patient. She puts the drop of blood onto the test. Then she places three drops of liquid solution on top of the blood. She waits for a few minutes. If one line appears, the test is negative. But if two lines appear, the test is positive - the person has leprosy and can begin treatment. Duthie explained to reporter Rachel Solomon:

Voice 3 

“It takes a lot of pressure off the health worker looking at symptoms saying ‘Hmm, you could have leprosy, you could have a fungal infection, you could have this other thing.’ It gives the health worker something so that during your visit to the doctor you can get a clear answer.”

Voice 2 

The second tool that will change the future of leprosy is a vaccine. A vaccine prevents a person from getting a disease. Many leprosy experts believe that a vaccine is the most powerful way to get rid of leprosy. That is why the Infectious Disease Research Institute, or IDRI, is working to develop one.

Voice 1

For that reason, the IDRI is working on two vaccines. One vaccine will be for people who are at risk of getting leprosy. The second vaccine will be for people who have recently gotten leprosy. People cannot get the vaccines yet. Researchers are still testing them. But organizations working against leprosy, like IDRI, have great hopes that they will work.

Voice 2 

In the past, people who had leprosy had to leave their homes and cities. They had little hope. But today, victims of leprosy can be cured. If they recognize the disease early, there is little damage to their body. And there is hope that in the future, leprosy will disappear. It will no longer threaten anyone.

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our program on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Curing Leprosy’.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. And find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What diseases scare you?

Comments


Long Pham's avatar
Long Pham
said on May 14, 2013

Thank you for the program that help me great knowledge about Leprosy’s infomation. A person with Leprosy disease become more worrying,he scared not only the dangerous disease, but also all people avoiding. Because of they afraid of its spread through a person’s breath.
In Vietnam, the government separate people with Leprosy disease from city areas, moved them to remote location, for easily control and treatment disease.

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Thomas Nguyen
said on May 14, 2013

Thanh you Spotlight for useful article.

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georgino
said on May 15, 2013

Dear
Friends, that is awesome topic
Everyday I know different diseases and that good news about the cure through the treatments and vaccine.
Some diseases no have cure yet, but I hope that the scientists continue researching
with the objetive found a cure like cancer for example.

Thanks spotlight
your friend Jrge

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georgino
said on May 15, 2013

W.O.H must follow helping to the people with these diseases, offering free medicine and vaccines . Some people don´t have chance to reach personal security or social security.
most of the cases around the world the poor people are the most affected.
It´s important that the government prevent this disease helping to the people to do the test
of leprosy.
Over time is appearing new diseases that cause fear.

Thank you
blessings


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hxminh
said on May 17, 2013

Nowadays, scientist get rid of smallpox completely. In the future, with the progress of science, People will able to not fear the dangerous disease like this.

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Wong Lawrence
said on June 12, 2013

Leprosy is a very dangerous disease and the person who suffer from this disease not only go through pain but also they go away from all people.I think we should be normal with such people to make them comfortable in a small way as they go from such a critical situation and I also want to say that whoever has written this blog my regards to that person as you have chosen such a unique topic.

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chinhqv
said on July 10, 2014

Thanks for spotlight with this article. It help me have a deep knowledge about leprosy. i have awareness about leprosy by image and it is not enough for this disease. I hope that W.H.O will continue supporting for people who got it over all the world. Good bless for them !

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Dela
said on July 11, 2014

I haven’t known the disease as leprosy exists nowadays yet. I have read the stories describing the terrible life of persons affected by leprosy in the past, they had to live abandoned in the separate colonies without any help, waiting for death, however, their suffering often lasted for a very long time. No one wanted to come near them except the religious who without hesitation tried to relieve of their infliction at least partly.
I hope these diseased people might have a big chance to be recovered by using the new modern curative methods the researchers have discovered. Of course, all of people around the world should get early treatment, no matter where they live.
Thanks Spotlight for interesting program!

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Luckystar
said on April 21, 2015

before, i have heard about leprosy throught my parent’s telling , previous generation. it different from the fact, i think that ghost cause it. that is funny, is’t that! the information of spotlight program is really usefull, throught this program, i understanded about leprosy exactly! thank you!

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kenhieuloilam
said on April 23, 2015

We live our lives for beautiful good things. We die for beautiful good things. Our lives have many challenges. We do not lose our hope. We can overcome difficulties. We have hope in the life. We have hope beyond death. Our hope helps us go on all our life journeys. Our hope helps us become good persons. There are joys. There are sadnesses. We share joys. We share sadnesses. We become good persons.

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talahata
said on February 11, 2017

Im really interest in spotlight. Everyday i know something new in the world via you. It’s really useful because it make me feel we are how small in front of this world. I dont know how my country call leprosy in my language but in my country also have a desease like leprosy. We call it is “Đậu mùa”, it can not make a person die but it make a person have many patches in his body. These patches make him or her become ugly and nobody want to closer