A recent study to check the trends and transmission of leprosy among patients undergoing treatment in the city has revealed an 18% increase in the number of teenagers (under 15 years) contracting the disease in the last seven years. The study also pointed out that maximum amount of patients, both adult and children, belong to migrant families from Uttar Pradesh (37.5%) and Bihar (8%). The statistics indicate that there is a delay in detection of cases to avoid transmission in children, said authors of the study.
Spearheaded by Dr Thirumugam Muthuvel, scientist from German Leprosy and TB Relief Association, Chennai and his colleagues, the study observed 578 new leprosy patients registered at Andheri-based Vimala Dermatological Centre from 2008 to 2015.
“Against the backdrop of National Leprosy Eradication Programme and the number of new cases being detected throughout the country, we wanted to observe the transmission trend and to understand a better diagnostic approach in patients at a referral centre,” said Muthuvel.
Though the researchers pointed out that the study, being done at one centre has its own limitations and cannot be considered as an indicator of the national trend, the major issue that came to light was delay in detection of cases to avoid transmission in children.
The researchers discovered that while male to female ratio in the patients was 60:30, with 10% of cases reported in children. “Mostly men migrate to cities (38% from Uttar Pradesh and 33% from Maharashtra) in search of better employment, and this could partly explain the higher proportion of males in our study,” the researchers mentioned in their paper.
A total of 55 children were diagnosed with leprosy during the period. Maharashtra reported 12.5% new cases [children] in 2015, while the national average during the same period was 9%. In this study, the child leprosy cases reported during 2015 was 18%, which is higher than the state and the national average, the paper stated.
“Major issue that came to front was delay in detection of cases. The bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae that causes leprosy, has incubation period of months or even years, depending on the immunity of an individual. Parents of infected children need to read the symptoms as early possible to avail treatment so the disease doesn’t reach a chronic stage,” said Muthuvel.
The trend however, is similar to that observed by NLEP. HT had reported four months back about a similar increase in the number of child cases, which increased from 1733 in 2009-2010 to 2045 in 2014-2015 in the state, accounting an 18% increase in the number of patients. Targeting children and migrants and ensuring early diagnosis and treatment initiation are essential components for leprosy elimination in an urban metropolis in India. “Focusing on children and migrant population and enforcing awareness and early diagnosis and treatment initiation are essential measure to eliminate leprosy in a metropolitan urban area like Mumbai,” said Muthuvel.