Although considered an extinct calamity, leprosy is an infectious disease still present in more than hundred countries.
Drug resistant strains of the bacterium responsible, Mycobacterium leprae, are emerging in several parts of the world, and transmission routes of the pathogen are not fully understood. As it is impossible to grow the bacterium in culture, new methods of detection and surveillance are needed in order to achieve the WHO's ambitious target of a 70% reduction in the number of annual cases by the end of the decade. A study has described and evaluated a new molecular approach for diagnosis and surveillance developed by GenoScreen. The test, called Deeplex® Myc-Lep, allows for deep sequencing of all known genetic targets of drug resistance of the bacillus and more than 30 strain genotyping markers, directly from DNA extracted from patient clinical samples. The results demonstrate a superior analytical capacity compared with conventional molecular tests, and also reveal the existence of a novel mechanism of antimicrobial resistance, analogous to a mechanism of resistance to anti-cancer therapy observed in human tumour cells. These results were published in the leading journal eBioMedicine: https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S2352396423002141.