New Test May Signal End to Biblical Disease

It’s a disease associated with Biblical times: leprosy.  But even today, leprosy affects 3 to 4 million people around the world, many in Africa.  Some 250,000 people contract the disease each year.  Aid for Africa member American Leprosy Missions is the oldest and largest organization working to eradicate the disease and to support those who live with it.  Donald McNeil reports that eradication of leprosy just might be possible, thanks to a new text developed by scientists in Brazil.

Leprosy, known officially as Hansen’s disease, is a bacterium that kills nerves in fingers, toes and other appendages and eventually leads to the loss of the extremities and to blindness.  Unfortunately, age-old superstitions about leprosy persist, and people who have the disease are often cast aside by society and pushed into a life of poverty and disability.

Once leprosy is diagnosed, it can be treated.  But discovery usually comes too late to prevent permanent damage, according to Bill Simmons, president of American Leprosy Missions.  The new test is quick — it takes less than ten minutes, is inexpensive and can detect the disease before symptoms appear.  “We’re definitely excited about this,” Simmons told McNeil.

American Leprosy Missions supports local programs in several countries. It provides treatment for the disease and programs such as disability-prevention training, scholarships, nutritional support, micro-credit loans, job training, health education, stigma reduction, surgical training and much more.  Learn more about its work on leprosy and Buruli Ulcer, which is caused by a bacterium related to leprosy.

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Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.

Photo credit: Calcutta Rescue


Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Lynne B.
Lynne B3 years ago

I hope that the pharmaceutical companies make the drugs cheap enough to be available to all.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Dana W.
Dana W3 years ago

Thank you for an enlightening story - those of us who live in more advanced, wealthy countries forget that not everyone is as fortunate.

Mary L.
Mary L3 years ago

How wonderful! Thanks for the good news.

Debbie Fry
Debbie Fry3 years ago

Very good news! Thanks

Grace Adams
Grace Adams3 years ago

Now we need good casework, tracing contacts to get them tested before they develop symptoms and get ostracized.

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider3 years ago

Awesome breakthrough :-)

Bonnie M.
Bonnie M3 years ago

I agree with Miranda- leprosy is not a biblical disease- this carries a questionable connotation. However, this is encouraging news.

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck3 years ago

Great reading, thanks.