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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


NKEHLI, L J; MENEZES, C N  and  TSITSI, J M L. Patterns of leprosy at Chiis Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa, and review of current clinical practice. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.9, pp.879-885. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. The World Health Organization announced a strategy to eliminate childhood leprosy infections, visible deformities and discriminatory legislation against leprosy patients by 2020. However, challenges in achieving a leprosy-free world and preventing neurological sequelae still exist. HIV infection is a challenge in South Africa (SA). HIV-leprosy co-infection may result in an increase in the frequency of leprosy reactions without affecting the spectrum of leprosy. From 1921 to 1997, the prevalence of leprosy remained <1 patient per 10 000 population. Current SA literature has very scanty information regarding leprosy infections. OBJECTIVES. To describe the trend of new leprosy patients at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, SA, from 1999 to 2015, including demographics, clinical spectrum and treatment outcomes. METHODS. A retrospective review of patients' clinical records was undertaken. Data on demographics, clinical spectrum including the leprosy classification, reactions, neurological involvement, association with HIV infection and treatment outcomes were extracted. Data analysis was performed using descriptive and inferential statistics and a time series analysis. RESULTS. An upward trend from 1999 to 2001 was followed by a decline in the number of new patients. Eighty patients were registered over a period of 17 years, with a male-to-female ratio of 3:1. Thirty-six patients were immigrants, and 5 were children aged <15 years. Multibacillary leprosy was the most common type (n=71 patients). Thirty-six patients had the lepromatous leprosy subtype, 22 were borderline lepromatous, 13 were borderline tuberculoid, 6 were borderline borderline, and 3 had tuberculoid leprosy. Thirty-one patients presented with reactions, type 1 in 9 patients and type 2 in 21 patients, with both types in 1 patient. Grade 2 neurological deformities were diagnosed in 37 patients, of whom 2 were children. Eight patients were found to have HIV-leprosy co-infection. Of 52 patients who completed treatment, 26 were cured and 26 were lost to follow-up. Twenty-one patients defaulted from treatment, while 3 patients relapsed. CONCLUSIONS. This study highlights the current status of leprosy in a low-endemic centre with declining numbers of new patients. Multibacillary forms with grade 2 disabilities (G2Ds) are common. The constant emergence of leprosy in our population highlights shortfalls in our control campaigns. Furthermore, a high rate of G2Ds necessitates scrutiny of education directed at early patient detection and follow-up strategies.

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