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Research Article

Rifampicin for lepromatous leprosy: nine years' experience.

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 21 January 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:133
  1. M F Waters,
  2. R J Rees,
  3. J M Pearson,
  4. A B Laing,
  5. H S Helmy,
  6. R H Gelber


    Over 100 patients with lepromatous leprosy were treated with rifampicin in a series of pilot, uncontrolled, and controlled trials in 1968-77. The rapid bactericidal effect of rifampicin on Mycobacterium leprae was confirmed. Clinical improvement became apparent sometimes as early as 14 days after the start of treatment. Nevertheless, a few persisting viable M leprae were detected as long as five years after the start of treatment with rifampicin either by itself or in combination with the bacteriostatic drug thiambutosine. Treatment with rifampicin and dapsone for six months reduced the number of persisting leprosy bacteria more than treatment with dapsone alone. Although rifampicin proved more effective than dapsone, it is unlikely that used by itself if can significantly shorten the length of treatment in lepromatous leprosy. Therefore initial intensive combined treatment with two or more bactericidal drugs (including rifampicin) warrants further investigation in both untreated leprosy and lepromatous leprosy resistant to dapsone.