Detecting leprosy long before it manifests skin lesions could improve the lives of thousands suffering with leprosy in India.
Mycobacterium leprae, a bacterium, causes leprosy and peripheral nerve damage is the major effect of the disease but its origins had remained unclear until now.
Experts have been exploring the relationship between the bacteria, which causes leprosy, and the formation of the membrane attack complex (MAC), which is a tool deployed by the innate immune system to fight pathogens.
Professor Pranab K. Das, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Birmingham said, "Our new research shows that inflammatory reactions can be prevented at an early stage of the disease, reducing the risk of the nerve damage that leads to the disabilities caused by leprosy. We propose that MAC inhibition could form the basis of the future development of novel therapeutics from leprosy."
It is also suggested that biomarkers could be used to study the mechanism of autonomic neuropathy in general, with the aim of new drug development for autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Despite a marked decline in the number of cases of leprosy since the 1980s and effective multidrug therapy (MDT), the disease remains endemic in several countries, including India - where the disease is most prevalent. Almost 135,000 new cases of the disease were reported in India during 2012.