Leprosy or Hansen's disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. The annual number of new leprosy cases registered worldwide has remained stable over the past years at over 200,000. Early case finding and multidrug therapy have not been able interrupt transmission completely. Elimination requires innovation in control and sustained commitment. Mathematical models can be used to predict the course of leprosy incidence and the effect of intervention strategies. Two compartmental models and one individual-based model have been described in the literature. Both compartmental models investigate the course of leprosy in populations and the long-term impact of control strategies. The individual-based model focusses on transmission within households and the impact of case finding among contacts of new leprosy patients. Major improvement of these models should result from a better understanding of individual differences in exposure to infection and developing leprosy after exposure. Most relevant are contact heterogeneity, heterogeneity in susceptibility and spatial heterogeneity. Furthermore, the existing models have only been applied to a limited number of countries. Parameterization of the models for other areas, in particular those with high incidence, is essential to support current initiatives for the global elimination of leprosy. Many challenges remain in understanding and dealing with leprosy. The support of mathematical models for understanding leprosy epidemiology and supporting policy decision making remains vital.
- Disease control
- Mathematical modelling