Can Leprosy Finally Be Eradicated?

A new test and vaccine could stop a disease that has cursed humanity for millennia

Slate, February 20, 2013

By Laura Fisher Kaiser

Inside the headquarters of the Infectious Disease Research Institute, senior scientist Malcolm Duthie dumps a pile of white plastic test cassettes onto a small round conference table. They are the size of flash drives and resemble pregnancy tests but contain a strip of paper infused with four leprosy proteins. I pick one up. “Is that blood?” I ask, pointing to a crimson smear inside a divot.

“Yes!” says Duthie. “With a single drop of blood, we’re now able to determine if someone has leprosy. ”

He snaps the cassette into a cradle hooked up to a smartphone and taps the screen. Two thin blue lines appear, indicating that this particular patient, part of a clinical trial in the Philippines last year, tested positive. “And see those numbers? That gives us a rough quantitative idea of their bacterial burden.”

Copyright © 2021 Laura Fisher Kaiser