Leprosy microbes lead scientists to immune discovery

July 31, 2011

Thanks to the opportunity that human leprosy infections provide for study of human immune responses, scientists have discovered how the body’s early warning system prompts a rapid immune response by two separate armies of defensive cells.

The researchers isolated immune cells in blood samples from healthy people and exposed the cells to a component of mycobacteria. They noted that the large white blood cells known as monocytes rapidly differentiated into the two distinct cell types, macrophages, which seek out and engulf the infectious bugs, and dendritic, or “antigen-presenting” cells, which seize distinctive pieces of the enemy and use them to “educate” and stir up a second immune response, known as “adaptive” immunity.

Until now, laboratory dish experiments had not revealed that the instantaneous or “innate” immune reaction, discovered less than 10 years ago, is mounted by two differently-specialized cells.

To read more about this discovery see Leprosy microbes lead scientists to immune discovery

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Delhi Has A Change of Heart for Sister Jean

July 25, 2011

A few days ago newspapers and websites were reporting that London-born Jacqueline Jean McEwan, a Catholic nun from Britain who has spent 29 years caring for leprosy patients in Bengaluru, India, is being forced to give up her work and leave the country after Delhi refused to renew her residency permit. Sometimes known as the Mother Teresa of Sumanahalli, Sister Jean runs a mobile clinic for leprosy patients in Bengaluru.

We can now confirm that Sister Jean McEwan, has been given an extension to apply for residency visa. We think that this is the least that the authorities in Delhi could do for someone who has been helping the country’s sick for nearly 30 years.

For more on this story, see also these links from the Guardian:
Nun forced to leave India after 29 years of helping leprosy patients
India extends British nun’s stay after visa row

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Awareness of Hansen’s Disease in the United States

July 31, 2010

To some people, it might at first appear that leprosy or Hansen’s disease as it is properly known, is a disease of the third world, or of poverty torn countries, or confined to India. However, compiled statistics reveal that although it is comparatively rare in the United States, there are currently approximately 6,500 cases and about 3,300 require active medical management. One problem is that diagnosis in the US is often delayed because health care providers are unaware of Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and its symptoms.

Although Hansen’s disease is not a common infectious disease, it has not been eradicated from the US population, and is endemic, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prevalence has remained relatively stable in the United States. Hansen’s disease is nationally notifiable, and in 2002, 96 cases occurring in the United States were reported to CDC. There are approximately 100 to 150 new cases diagnosed each year.

In 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available) 150 new cases were reported in the the United States, with the majority of these new cases (97 or 65%) reported in California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

Once you realize that even in the United States Hansen’s Disease is still a problem, all be it a small one, then you can appreciate the problem in less affluent countries. Awareness of Hansen’s Disease in the United States can contribute to the solution worldwide, and help to eradicate this disfiguring disease forever.


The Stigma of Leprosy in India

February 16, 2009

The history of leprosy in India offers insights into one of the world’s most misunderstood diseases. The effort towards Leprosy control and elimination still faces many challenges, as Leprosy continues to be stigmatized. In a society with a deeply ingrained, though legally abolished, caste system, this continues to be a problem partly through lack of knowledge.

Socially marginalized groups such as women, minority social or ethnic groups and the urban poor are less likely to seek care, and are not motivated to account for their individual needs. Even community education and medical knowledge of the disease does not immediately dispel the stigma, as people with experience of the disease do not necessarily have a positive attitude to the patients. The cause of this stigma is not well understood.

Sustaining the gains made so far and further reducing the disease burden in India require an innovative, holistic approach that includes ongoing education, efforts to identify interventions to dispel stigma, and the inclusion of nonallopathic practitioners in disease control programs.

For more information about the impact of Stigmatisation on the efforts to End Leprosy see The Stigmatization of Leprosy in India and Its Impact on Future Approaches to Elimination and Control by Jesse T. Jacob and Carlos Franco-Paredes. Click here to read the journal entry.

If you are interested in the campaign to End leprosy Now, please click on the link below and pledge your support.

Help to End leprosy Now

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Registering a Charity

February 1, 2009

From the 1 April 2008 trustees of organisations applying for registration as a Charity will be required to have regard to the Charity Commission’s public benefit guidance and to demonstrate their organisation’s aims are for the public benefit as part of the application process. The Charity Commission provides comprehensive information on registering a new charity, including all the publications and forms you will need before you apply.

Click here to see the Charity Commission’s Public Benefit guidance

There are a few things to think about before setting up a new charity, and these are listed on the Commission’s website. Click here to view the Charity Commission’s Things to think about before setting up a new charity

The Charity Commission provides an online registration facility for organisations that are affiliated to an umbrella body and have a Commission approved governing document. The advantages of applying on-line are:

  • The on-line application system only asks questions relevant to the organisation and to tailors the questions to the responses made to the earlier questions.
  • Validation checks are carried out on the information as it is entered and can ensure that all required parts of the application are completed. This substantially reduces the need to contact applicants with queries.
  • It eliminates clerical errors that can otherwise occur if someone unfamiliar with the organisation enters information into the charity database.
  • Because of these advantages, they aim to provide the majority of organisations with their registered charity number in about a week. This compares with an average turnaround time for paper applications of about a month.

Click here to apply online

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Leprosy as a challenge

January 15, 2009

Leprosy is a debilitating, disfiguring disease that brings social exclusion and humiliation to millions of sufferers across the world. It is so deeply burned into the human psyche that in some languages the noun for the victims alone causes fear and disgust. Hence the pejorative term Leper, meaning undesirable or ostracised.

Yet Leprosy is curable and preventable and with sufficient human effort could be eradicated completely from the world.

Leprosy is neither good nor bad, it just is. It is the meaning that people give to the disease that exacerbates or relives the suffering of the victims. If your theology or philosophy accepts it as a challenge to be overcome then that it what it is. If you see your life’s purpose is to help others, and Leprosy is your vocation, then that is what you will make it. If you believe it is your destiny to do some good in this world, then the eradication of Leprosy just might be your calling.

I see Leprosy as a focal point to help people come together in a common cause, and to do good work. When you do something for someone else, you grow as a person and feel better yourself. The more you help, the more people help you to achieve your aims and realise your vision. This is the law of reciprocity.

This website is dedicated to getting everyone in the world to work together for a common purpose – to bring an end to Leprosy. Perhaps if we can work together to do that, then the world might be a better place.

Bruce Thompson
14 January 2009

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Putting An End To Leprosy

January 14, 2009

This site has one simple aim – to bring an end to Leprosy
Leprosy is curable and preventable and with sufficient human effort could be eradicated completely from the world. It has been curable since the 1980s and treatment is now widely accessible and free of charge. Fifteen million people have been cured of the illness, and it is now a public health problem in only four countries.

What is Leprosy?
Leprosy, also called Hansen’s Disease, is an infectious disease caused by the Mycobacterium Leprae. For those at risk, exposure to prolonged coughing and sneezing from an infected individual can spread the disease. Leprosy attacks the nervous system, deadening the body to pain, so that wounds are often left untreated. Because the individual does not feel any pain, infections are allowed to grow until they are so severe that limbs may require amputation. Leprosy can also cause fingers and toes to curl inward, feet to lose their ability to arch and even blindness. The end result is horrific disfigurement and lifelong stigma. But, if caught in time, leprosy can be treated and completely cured before the disfigurement begins. Early detection and treatment is essential in controlling the spread of this disease.

Public ignorance and fear mean that attitudes towards former Leprosy sufferers and those close to them remain unchanged; they are excluded from schools and workplaces, unable to find or keep marriage partners, and widely shunned by communities. Many are disabled, most are forced into poverty. There is no other illness whose sufferers continue to face such stigmatisation even after they have been cured.

Why Now?
25 January 2009 has been designated World Leprosy Day. This site has been initiated now, in the lead up to World Leprosy Day 2009, to revitalise and reenergise the efforts to eradicate this disfiguring disease.

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