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  • Leprosy gene discovery spurs vaccine hopes

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Researchers have identified a gene that makes people vulnerable to leprosy, marking an important step towards developing new treatments and possibly a vaccine for the disease.

"This discovery will allow us to study how the gene works and how it influences the infectious process," says Erwin Schurr of McGill University, Canada. "These studies lead the way to developing better treatment and a possible vaccine," adds his colleague, Marcel Behr.

The research team analysed DNA samples from nearly 100 families who were susceptible to leprosy, and found that they shared the same gene variant on chromosome 6. Their findings will be published in the March issue of Nature Genetics.

Leprosy — a chronic disease that affects the skin, peripheral nerves and respiratory tract — affects over 600,000 people worldwide, with over two-thirds of sufferers in India alone. Although current treatment is highly effective, many of those in poor countries cannot access the required drugs.

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