Skip to comments.Worrisome New Link: AIDS Drugs and Leprosy
Posted on 10/25/2006 11:18:15 PM PDT by neverdem
With affordable AIDS drugs arriving in many poor countries, experts say a startling and worrisome side effect has emerged: in some patients, the treatment uncovers a hidden leprosy infection.
No one knows how widespread the problem is. Only about a dozen cases have been described in medical literature since the first one was found, in London in 2003. But AIDS specialists in Brazil, India, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere are reporting that some patients on life-saving antiretroviral drugs are developing painful facial ulcers or losing feeling in their fingers and toes.
And in the third world, where 300,000 new cases of leprosy were discovered last year and where 38 million are infected with the AIDS virus, the problem will inevitably get worse, experts say.
This is just the peak of the iceberg, said Dr. William Levis, who treats leprosy patients at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Its early in the game. Most physicians dont even think about leprosy, so theres probably much more around than we know.
Dr. Gilla Kaplan, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and one of the first to study connections between AIDS and leprosy, agreed.
Antiretroviral treatment, she said, is going to flush out the silent leprosy by making it symptomatic.
Because leprosy, a bacterial disease, can be treated with specialized antibiotics that are supplied free by the Novartis pharmaceutical company, there is little prospect of a worldwide epidemic or large numbers of deaths. Its a matter of concern for the individual patients, said Dr. Denis Daumerie, who leads the efforts by the World Health Organization to eliminate leprosy. Its not a matter of concern for public health.
Still, the disease requires taking multiple pills for six months to two years an added burden for people who typically...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
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