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5 ways Covid-19 has slowed vital leprosy research

All over the world our teams are doing crucial research into life-changing tools, tests, and treatments. Their research could help us to diagnose more cases of leprosy, it could help us to prevent more people from contracting the disease, and it can provide us with new treatment options for leprosy and its complications. In some places Covid-19 has slowed down the work, in other places it has completely stopped the work. Here’s a look at some of the ways Covid-19 has impacted our researchers. 

1. We have stopped collecting samples and registering research subjects

Much of our basic research involves collecting samples of blood, urine and other biological material. These samples are then analysed for various bio-markers or used for testing new treatments etc. These samples help us learn about a leprosy and its consequences.

Our field research, involves registering a large number of people of affected by leprosy, as well as in some cases a matching control group. As travel is restricted due to COVID-19 regulations, our ability to register cases is severely hampered, so we have had to stop for now.  

As travel restrictions ease, and as mitigation procedures are put in place, we plan to restart our sample collection and our registration of research subjects as soon as it is safe to do so.

2. Some of our research staff are having to quarantine

As with workplaces all over the world, one positive case of Covid-19 amongst staff will lead to all staff having to quarantine for 14 days. This is an important and necessary as the safety and health of our staff is vital.

However, as one of our lab staff has tested positive, we have seen that all those who have been in contact with them need to quarantine. Although this is necessary, it is certainly slowing down our work and has the potential to continue slowing down our work for some time.

3. Our staff are overworked as they play a part in tackling Covid-19

Several of our hospitals and laboratories have received requests from their governments to support the national response to COVID-19. As governments worldwide have unprecedented demand for laboratory testing, our labs are asked to be part of the C-19 testing network.

This means that our staff, who were already very busy, are now over-stretched and working long hours to keep up with demand. We are proud to play a part in the fight against Covid-19, but it has also meant that our leprosy research work has slowed slightly.

4. Materials are harder to find

Some of the materials that are essential to our research work are very hard to find at the moment. Many of these materials have to be transported from overseas and the restricted travel and movement of goods means that there are significant delays.

We are also seeing some drugs that we are researching at the momement are running short in-country and we are facing problems importing them due to C-19 restrictions.Thankfully, we currently have sufficient supply of the main treatment for leprosy, MDT (multi-drug therapy) is not seeing a shortage.

5. Research funding has been interrupted

All of our research work needs funding. Much of this funding comes through research grants, but a number of key grant-giving organisations are pausing their funds. These organisations are waiting to see what impact Covid-19 will have on their income before they award grants. This means that some of our teams are waiting to hear from funders before they can start or continue their work.

We completely understand the difficulties facing grant-givers and their need for caution. We hope and pray that they will have certainty soon so that important research across the world can get going again.

Across the world our research work is being impact by Covid-19. One way you can play a part in helping our researchers is by donating to The Leprosy Mission. You can do that here.