Background: Although the number of newly detected leprosy cases has decreased globally, a quarter of a million new cases are detected annually and eradication remains far away. Current options for leprosy prevention are contact tracing and BCG vaccination of infants. Future options may include chemoprophylaxis and early diagnosis of subclinical infections. This study compared the predicted trends in leprosy case detection of future intervention strategies. Methods: Seven leprosy intervention scenarios were investigated with a microsimulation model (SIMCOLEP) to predict future leprosy trends. The baseline scenario consisted of passive case detection, multidrug therapy, contact tracing, and BCG vaccination of infants. The other six scenarios were modifications of the baseline, as follows: no contact tracing; with chemoprophylaxis; with early diagnosis of subclinical infections; replacement of the BCG vaccine with a new tuberculosis vaccine ineffective against Mycobacterium leprae ("no BCG"); no BCG with chemoprophylaxis; and no BCG with early diagnosis. Findings: Without contact tracing, the model predicted an initial drop in the new case detection rate due to a delay in detecting clinical cases among contacts. Eventually, this scenario would lead to new case detection rates higher than the baseline program. Both chemoprophylaxis and early diagnosis would prevent new cases due to a reduction of the infectious period of subclinical cases by detection and cure of these cases. Also, replacing BCG would increase the new case detection rate of leprosy, but this effect could be offset with either chemoprophylaxis or early diagnosis. Conclusions: This study showed that the leprosy incidence would be reduced substantially by good BCG vaccine coverage and the combined strategies of contact tracing, early diagnosis, and treatment of infection and/or chemoprophylaxis among household contacts. To effectively interrupt the transmission of M. leprae, it is crucial to continue developing immuno-and chemoprophylaxis strategies and an effective test for diagnosing subclinical infections.
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