India has developed the world’s first leprosy vaccine, which is soon to be planned for trials within five districts of Bihar and Gujarat states.
The latest move is part of the country's efforts to eliminate the disease that is affecting 125,000 people per year.
The mycobacterium indicus pranii (MIP) vaccine has been developed by the National Institute of Immunology (NII) founder-director Talwar, and will be administered as prevention for people residing in close contact with those infected by the bacteria.
The Hindu quoted Indian Council of Medical Research director general Dr Soumya Swaminathan as saying: "It is the first vaccine for leprosy, and India will be the first to have a large-scale vaccination programme.
“Trials have shown that if the vaccine is given to people in close contact with the affected, cases can be brought down by 60% in three years. It expedites cure rate if given to people with skin lesions."
The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the vaccine.
The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda said that the centre has started door-to-door screening in 50 districts across India.
So far, a total of approximately 5,000 out of 75 million people screened have been confirmed with leprosy.
The next phase is planned to be launched in September this year, during which 163 endemic districts including Erode will be covered in the state of Tamil Nadu.