2015 & onwards
American Leprosy Missions has committed to working towards the development of the world’s first leprosy vaccine. While a vaccine could be a significant step forward, some researchers have warned that there are other areas of leprosy research that are of greater priority. These diagnostic tests, and building a greater understanding of how the disease is transmitted. There are also concerns surrounding the potential uptake of a vaccine. As the disease is not very contagious, there is not a strong incentive for mass immunisation.
Researchers have developed a new diagnostic test for leprosy that offers hope of speedy diagnosis and treatment. It will initially only be available in Brazil, and will be priced at US$1 or less per test.
The test is said to as simple and quick as a pregnancy test. It is expected that it will be able to diagnose leprosy cases a year before symptoms appear. The sooner someone takes multidrug therapy, the more likely it is that they will be completely free of any disability.
A new charter is agreed making all participating countries 'members' of The Leprosy Mission Global Fellowship. The member countries consist of both 'supporting' (donor) countries and 'implementing' (field) countries. Both are equally valued members and partners in the work. TLM International operates as a central 'hub' to coordinate the needs of the members.
2010s – Scientists at work
American Leprosy Missions, one of The Leprosy Mission’s partner organisations, in collaboration with IDRI (the Infectious Disease Research Institute), have invested millions of dollars into developing a diagnostic test and vaccine.
2000s – Helping communities
Our work becomes more community focused in order to diagnose leprosy at an earlier stage so fewer people are left with disabilities. The 2004 tsunami hits parts of south India where we have projects. People affected by the disaster are provided with low-cost homes.
We also responded rapidly to the needs of thousands of people displaced by Cyclone Nargis which brought devastation to Myanmar (Burma) in 2008. Disability resource centres provided support to leprosy-affected people and those with disabilities helping them to rebuild their lives.
1990s – Focus on transforming lives
As many more people are cured of leprosy, caring for people with lasting disabilities through social, economic and physical rehabilitation becomes increasingly important.
1981 – MDT rolled out
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a new combination drug treatment for leprosy – multidrug therapy (MDT). People are completely cured in as little as six months. Many, however, are left with irreversible disabilities and secondary reactions to the treatment.
1970s – Outside the hospital
The Leprosy Mission begins to extend its work outside hospitals to people's homes and communities.
1965 – Name change
The Mission changes its name from the Mission to Lepers to The Leprosy Mission to avoid the negative connotations of the word 'leper'.
1960s – Search for new drugs
Scientists work to discover new drugs that are effective against leprosy as many people are discovered to have Dapsone-resistant leprosy.
1954 – World Leprosy Day is born
The first World Leprosy Day takes place inspired by French writer and humanitarian Raoul Follereau who visited leprosy colonies across the globe. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of leprosy – one of the most feared and stigmatised diseases – and let people know it is curable. The day is observed on 30 January or its nearest Sunday in commemoration of the death of Gandhi who understood the devastating effects of leprosy.
1940s and 1950s – Reconstructive surgery pioneered
Dr Paul Brand pioneers medical research and reconstructive surgery on leprosy deformities in hands and feet in South India. The first effective cure for leprosy, Dapsone, is introduced. During the next 15 years, millions of patients are treated. The Mission's work is extended into Africa.
1920s and 1930s – New leprosy hospital in India
The Mission's headquarters move from Dublin to London. A new leprosy hospital is opened in Faizabad, India. From 1939-45 much of the Mission's work is affected by the Second World War, particularly in China, Japan and Burma. Many patients are dispersed and hospitals overrun.
1910s – Into Africa
Work begins in Africa. Income and interest in the Mission's work grow and Wellesley and Alice Bailey travel to China, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and India visiting projects, raising awareness of leprosy and asking for support. By the time Wellesley retires in 1917, The Mission has 87 programmes in 12 countries with support offices in eight countries. The annual income is £40,000.
1890s – India & beyond
The Mission's first public meeting is held in London with the money raised helping to build a leprosy home and children's home in Neeyor, South India. Wellesley Bailey visits Mandalay, Burma, to open the first 'Mission to Lepers' home outside of India. Wellesley tours the US and Canada and a support office in Ontario opens. The Mission's work extends to China and Japan.
1880s – First Mission hospital
Three support offices open in England. Mary Reed is sent to India as the Mission's first missionary. Purulia Leprosy Hospital in West Bengal opens with support from the Mission.
1874 – Mission to Lepers is born
The Mission to Lepers is born when friends of missionaries Wellesley and Alice Bailey pledge to raise money to help leprosy sufferers in India. In the first year £600 is raised.