Background: Leprosy is remaining prevalent in the poorest areas of the world. Intensive control programmes with multidrug therapy (MDT) reduced the number of registered cases in these areas, but transmission of Mycobacterium leprae continues in most endemic countries. Socio-economic circumstances are considered to be a major determinant, but uncertainty exists regarding the association between leprosy and poverty. We assessed the association between different socio-economic factors and the risk of acquiring clinical signs of leprosy. Methods and Findings: We performed a case-control study in two leprosy endemic districts in northwest Bangladesh. Using interviews with structured questionnaires we compared the socio-economic circumstances of recently diagnosed leprosy patients with a control population from a random cluster sample in the same area. Logistic regression was used to compare cases and controls for their wealth score as calculated with an asset index and other socio-economic factors. The study included 90 patients and 199 controls. A recent period of food shortage and not poverty per se was identified as the only socio-economic factor significantly associated with clinical manifestation of leprosy disease (OR 1.79 (1.06-3.02); p = 0.030). A decreasing trend in leprosy prevalence with an increasing socio-economic status as measured with an asset index is apparent, but not statistically significant (test for a trend: OR 0.85 (0.71-1.02); p = 0.083). Conclusions: Recent food shortage is an important poverty related predictor for the clinical manifestation of leprosy disease. Food shortage is seasonal and poverty related in northwest Bangladesh. Targeted nutritional support for high risk groups should be included in leprosy control programmes in endemic areas to reduce risk of disease.

dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0001029, hdl.handle.net/1765/26180
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Feenstra-Gols, S.G, Nahar, Q, Pahan, D, Oskam, L, & Richardus, J.H. (2011). Recent food shortage is associated with leprosy disease in Bangladesh: A case-control study. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 5(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001029