An assessment of the reported impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on leprosy services using an online survey of practitioners in leprosy referral centres
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to governments implementing a variety of public health measures to control transmission and has affected health services. Leprosy is a communicable neglected tropical disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae and is an important health problem in low- and middle-income countries. The natural history of leprosy means that affected individuals need long-term follow-up. The measures recommended to reduce transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can create barriers to health services. We evaluated the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic response on leprosy services and disease management.
We conducted a cross-sectional online survey with healthcare professionals in leprosy referral centres.
Eighty percent of leprosy diagnostic services were reduced. All respondents reported that multidrug therapy (MDT) was available but two reported a reduced stock. Clinicians used alternative strategies such as telephone consultations to maintain contact with patients. However, patients were not able to travel to the referral centres.
This study highlights the effects of the initial phase of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on leprosy services in a range of leprosy-endemic countries. Many services remained open, providing leprosy diagnosis, MDT and leprosy reaction medications. Centres developed innovative measures to counter the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.