A modelling analysis of a new multi-stage pathway for classifying achievement of public health milestones for leprosy
Davis EL., Crump RE., Medley GF., Solomon AW., Pemmaraju VRR., Hollingsworth TD.
Several countries have come close to eliminating leprosy, but leprosy cases continue to be detected at low levels. Due to the long, highly variable delay from infection to detection, the relationship between observed cases and transmission is uncertain. The World Health Organization's new technical guidance provides a path for countries to reach elimination. We use a simple probabilistic model to simulate the stochastic dynamics of detected cases as transmission declines, and evaluate progress through the new public health milestones. In simulations where transmission is halted, 5 years of zero incidence in autochthonous children, combined with 3 years of zero incidence in all ages is a flawed indicator that transmission has halted (54% correctly classified). A further 10 years of only occasional sporadic cases is associated with a high probability of having interrupted transmission (99%). If, however, transmission continues at extremely low levels, it is possible that cases could be misidentified as historic cases from the tail of the incubation period distribution, although misleadingly achieving all three milestones is unlikely (less than 1% probability across a 15-year period of ongoing low-level transmission). These results demonstrate the feasibility and challenges of a phased progression of milestones towards interruption of transmission, allowing assessment of programme status. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Challenges and opportunities in the fight against neglected tropical diseases: a decade from the London Declaration on NTDs’.