MDT Plus underway in Samoa

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Everyone watches as Serafi, the Leprosy clinician, gives the first person some last minute advice on pill swallowing!

Everyone watches as Serafi, the Leprosy clinician, gives the first person some last minute advice on pill swallowing!

The work of the Pacific Leprosy Foundation was the lead story in Samoa’s 6.00 p.m. news on Monday 27th September.  A Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health in Samoa was signed by Richard Gray (Chairman, Board of Trustees) and Leausa, Dr Take Naseri, Director General of the Ministry of Health and now the project could begin.

The last 12 months have been occupied with developing the protocols for the project and getting the approval of the Ministry of Health. In addition the administrative side of the project needed to be put in place including processes for recording contacts, when they were checked and given the medication and ensuring those details were captured on a database. In addition all personnel involved had to be trained to ensure they knew how to implement the project.

 

The project sounds so simple – find all household contacts of anyone who has been diagnosed with leprosy in the last five years and give them a single dose of Rifampicin – and then do it again in a year’s time.  This should reduce their risk of also contracting leprosy by 70%.  However – simple, isn’t always easy!

For children under 5, Rifampicin is given as a liquid (followed by a treat!)

For children under 5, Rifampicin is given as a liquid (followed by a treat!)

  It is vital that all these people are examined for signs of leprosy before they are given the Rifampicin; if they already have active leprosy, just one dose of Rifampicin will not cure them and it could engender drug resistance in the leprosy bacteria.  Tracking down all the contacts can also be quite difficult, as they may have moved to another village (or even another country!).  Paperwork has been kept as simple as possible, but there is still plenty of it to be done and ultimately recorded in a database.  But at the heart of this project are the people – the families whose lives have already been affected by leprosy, and who don’t want the cycle to continue.  After they have received their two doses of Rifampicin (one year apart), we will continue to monitor them for a further three years – by which time, if they had been going to develop leprosy, it is likely that they would have done so.

This is the first time that a project like this has been tried for a whole country and if carried out successfully, could mean the eradication of leprosy in Samoa.  Your support for our work is making a real difference to the prevalence of leprosy in the Pacific.

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