The “Initiative for Diagnostic and Epidemiological Assays for Leprosy” (IDEAL) resulted from two workshops under the auspices of the TDR programme of WHO. The first workshop, held in Geneva in November 2002, identified two fields of leprosy research in which advances are needed in order to eliminate leprosy. These are:
In October 2003 a second workshop was organized in Amsterdam, in which the research needs in the field of early diagnosis and transmission were further identified and made explicit in a proposal for a comprehensive leprosy research program. As a direct result of this workshop, the IDEAL Consortium was formed to coordinate and facilitate research leading to new tools for leprosy control, and ultimately to a reduction in leprosy transmission.
Both tests will be developed using well-characterised clinical samples, and evaluated in the field. The combination of the two approaches (early diagnosis and transmission studies) will, for the first time, allow the development of rational interventions for the prevention of leprosy which can then be aimed at those people who are at the highest risk of developing leprosy.
IDEAL aims at the application of new developments in the fields of molecular typing of Mycobacterium leprae, the cause of leprosy, and specific antigen/epitope definition to field studies towards better understanding of the epidemiology and transmission of leprosy, and the improved diagnosis of leprosy infection. The three main areas of research in this program are:
The IDEAL Consortium consists of approximately 30 partners in endemic and non-endemic countries with backgrounds in laboratory-based and field-based research.