The Resurgence of Leprosy in Brazil

Brazil is the only country in the world that hasn’t reached the World Health Organization’s standard for leprosy elimination. The biblical disease is now curable through modern medicine, but can cause severe disfigurement and disability if left untreated.

While the number of new leprosy cases have been declining globally, Brazil’s trends have grown from less than 25,300 in 2016 to more than 28,660 two years later. This is especially apparent in the northern state of Pará, which over the last half century has recorded more new cases of leprosy than any other state in the country.

Marituba, one of Pará’s hyperendemic municipalities, is where Dr. Claudio Salgado and his team at the Laboratory of Dermatology Immunology are headquartered. Salgado leads week-long surveying trip to rural communities through Northern Brazil in search for new leprosy cases.

A combination of early detection and multidrug therapy can eliminate the infectious disease. But not only is the bacteria infamously difficult to track, Salgado is left short-handed as the number of certified leprologists in Brazil continues to decline.