RSTMH announces call for applications for the Robert Cochrane Fund for Leprosy

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

To mark World Leprosy Day, we are opening a call for applications for the remaining £1,000 of the Robert Cochrane Fund for Leprosy.

The funding is to be awarded to further research in the field of leprosy and in honour of Robert Cochrane, the eminent leprologist.

Leprosy continues to affect hundreds of thousands globally

Leprosy remains a debilitating illness for hundreds of thousands of people across the world – many of whom are children.

Even though numbers of people living with leprosy and prevalence rates of the disease are dropping, due to WHO’s programme to provide treatment for free and drugs donation from many including the Novartis Foundation, around 210,000 new cases are still diagnosed each year.

It's not just the physical effects of leprosy which devastate lives, people are often shunned by their communities and sometimes their own families because of the stigma which surrounds these diseases. This can lead to isolation, depression and even suicide. © Peter Caton
Delower Ali Mondal, Bangladesh. It's not just the physical effects of leprosy which devastate lives, people are often shunned by their communities and sometimes their own families because of the stigma which surrounds these diseases. This can lead to isolation, depression and even suicide. © Peter Caton

The elimination of leprosy as public health problem was achieved globally in the year 2000, with prevalence rates dropping from under 5 million cases in the mid-1980s, to under 200,000 cases at the end of 2016. Actual numbers are estimated to be higher though, as many of those affected don’t complete treatment or don’t receive it at all.

Stigma and discrimination persist

Due the continued stigma against people with Hansen’s disease, they may not seek help when first symptoms appear, causing delay in diagnosis and development of disabilities.

This set of circumstances mean that interest and funding in the field of leprosy has dropped.

At RSTMH, we are committed to working towards the reduction and elimination of neglected tropical diseases, including leprosy, as well as highlighting the intersections (and gaps) between issues such as leprosy and mental health through funding and disseminating research.

Funding to advance research in the field of leprosy

Since 1983, we have managed the Robert Cochrane Fund for Leprosy. The fund was established to support travel awards to obtain or provide practical training in fieldwork or in research into leprosy.

The call for the remaining £1,000 of the fund is now open, with the deadline for applications on 4 May 2018. Funds will be disbursed from July 2018.

This is not the end of our work on leprosy, future funding for leprosy research would be welcome as part of small grants programme which is also open for applications.

Past awardees of the Robert Cochrane Fund include Dr M. P. Save. With the travel grant, she was able to further her understanding about pathogenesis of various neuro degenerative disorders; in relation to pathomechanism of nerve damage in leprosy and paved the way for her postdoctoral research [1].

The grant is now closed for submissions.  

References

[1] Save MP, Shetty VP, Shetty KT. Hypophosphorylation of NF-H and NF-M subunits of neurofilaments and the associated decrease in KSPXK kinase activity in the sciatic nerves of Swiss white mice inoculated in the foot pad with Mycobacterium leprae. Lepr. Rev. 2009; 80: 388-401.