|Through the years, the goals of the Leprosy Research Program were
directed on relevant and responsible research. Laboratory studies of M. leprae
infection in urban communities, leper colony and high prevalence provinces using serology
and other epidemiological tools have contributed to a better understanding of the disease;
identification of populations who have a higher risk of developing leprosy as well as
design of intervention strategies.
Such sero-epidemiological studies provided guidance to successfully institute chemoprophylaxis in Culion and Cebu and have significantly lowered the prevalence of the disease. Laboratory research on disease inheritance by cytogenetic studies has led to significant clues regarding familial (parent-to-sibling) transmission of the disease.
A pharmacokinetic study in mice had shown that sparfloxacin at 200 mg is more bactericidal than ofloxacin at 400 mg.
In search for alternative anti-leprosy drugs, a clinical trial was done on three new bactericidal drugs, namely: Sparfloxacin, Clarithromycin and Fusidic Acid in human, utilizing the standard Mouse Foot Pad and Radiorespirometry assays.
Using PCR (polymerase chain reaction), DNA studies were done through non-invasive bio-samplings such as nasal swabs and less invasive skin slit smears.
Currently, ongoing effort is geared towards the development of "Rapid Assay" in collaboration with Yonsei University, Department of Microbiology for the detection of leprosy specially designed for field application. Such effort would lead us to institute early treatment of leprosy; thereby, preventing disability and further spread of the disease. Another focus is to strengthen the capability of our laboratory by acquiring new technology to test and monitor drug resistance. The problem of drug resistance is becoming more prevalent due to non-compliance to the WHO-MDT treatment among multi-bacillary patients. Epidemiological studies are also being undertaken to identify risk factors involved in the development of leprosy especially among household contacts of patients. These studies are expected to contribute to the development of intervention strategies.
Our long-term plan is to develop a diagnostic tool to detect sub-clinical leprosy through the use of innovative technology that is fast, efficient, easy to perform, sensitive and specific that can be used in the field. This would assist in the design of drug intervention strategies at the earliest possible time, ultimately bringing down the level of transmission in the community and hopefully eliminate leprosy as a public health problem. Another is the parallel monitoring, using Single Strand Conformational Polymorphism technology, for studies on drug resistant leprosy. The latter will complement treatment approaches using new drugs.
The following are the on-going studies: (1) Risk Factors in the Development of Leprosy among Household Contacts in Cebu, in collaboration with the Cebu Provincial Health Office, funded by the Culion Foundation, Inc.; (2) Post Genome Research in the Laboratory Diagnosis of Leprosy in collaboration with the Department of Microbiology, Yonsei University, funded by RITM institutional funds; (3) Chemoprophylaxis of Persistently ELISA Positive Household Contacts based on the Risk Factor Study in Cebu in collaboration with the Cebu Provincial Health Office, funded by the Culion Foundation, Inc.; and (4) Ofloxacin Containing-Combined Regimen in the Treatment of Multi-bacillary Leprosy in collaboration with the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, funded by the UNDP/WORLD BANK/WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).