Patients with skin smear positive leprosy in Bangladesh are the main risk factor for leprosy development: 21-year follow-up in the household contact study (COCOA)

by Emily E. V. Quilter, C. Ruth Butlin, Surendra Singh, Khorshed Alam, Diana N. J. Lockwood


Leprosy transmission is ongoing; globally and within Bangladesh. Household contacts of leprosy cases are at increased risk of leprosy development. Identification of household contacts at highest risk would optimize this process.


The temporal pattern of new case presentation amongst household contacts was documented in the COCOA (Contact Cohort Analysis) study. The COCOA study actively examined household contacts of confirmed leprosy index cases identified in 1995, and 2000–2014, to provide evidence for timings of contact examination policies. Data was available on 9527 index cases and 38303 household contacts. 666 household contacts were diagnosed with leprosy throughout the follow-up (maximum follow-up of 21 years). Risk factors for leprosy development within the data analysed, were identified using Cox proportional hazard regression.


The dominant risk factor for household contacts developing leprosy was having a highly skin smear positive index case in the household. As the grading of initial slit skin smear of the index case increased from negative to high positive (4–6), the hazard of their associated household contacts developing leprosy increases by 3.14 times (p Interpretation

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We found a dominance of a single variable predicting risk for leprosy transmission–skin smear positive index cases. A small number of cases are maintaining transmission in the household setting. Focus should be performing contact examinations on these households and detecting new skin smear positive index cases. Conducting slit-skin smears on new cases is needed for predicting risk; such services need supporting. If skin smear positive cases are sustaining leprosy infection within the household setting, the administration of single-dose rifampicin (SDR) to household contacts as the sole intervention in Bangladesh will not be effective.

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Paper source
Plos Journal

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