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Chinese scientists make breakthrough in leprosy treatment


JINAN, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists have made a breakthrough that could lead to more effective treatments for leprosy.

A team from Shandong Provincial Institute of Dermatology and Venereology in east China has identified two new risk variants near IL23R and RAB 32 genes that are responsible for the disease, according to a report published online Monday in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.

Knowing that the two gene variants influence susceptibility to leprosy could allow doctors to diagnose the disease in sufferers earlier in its outset, as well as to develop new treatments. A genetic database could now be built up to predict those people particularly susceptible to leprosy, said Zhang Furen, the leader of the research team.

The study involved more than 10,000 samples being taken from leprosy sufferers and healthy test subjects and analysed.

Leprosy is a chronic nerve-killing disease that leads to problems with patients' skin, feet, hands, legs and eyes. More than 200,000 newly-contracted leprosy cases are reported worldwide every year, and China has around one tenth of the world's sufferers.

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