Founded as a Research Unit in 1955, SIH-R& LC Karigiri has a well-defined research divisions that work independently and in association to identify potential areas/research questions that address the current research needs in leprosy. Various divisions in research include:

  1. Laboratory Based Research:

Molecular Biology Laboratory:

Molecular Biology Laboratory was started in the year 1999 to perform basic science research in leprosy in order to understand the genomic and molecular constituents of Mycobacterium leprae and to utilize the knowledge to identify effective diagnostic, prophylactic and therapeutic measures to combat leprosy. Being a DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research – Ministry of Science & Technology, (Government of India) recognized research laboratory, the unit has taken up various epidemiological, translational and basic science research in the frontier areas of Molecular biology, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics.

Apart from the regular research grants from SIH-R & LC, the laboratory was extramurally funded and worked in collaboration with:

  1. American Leprosy Missions (ALM), USA
  2. The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI), New Delhi, India.
  3. The Leprosy Mission Ireland
  4. Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), Seattle, Washington, USA.
  5. National Institute of Health (NIH, Maryland, USA).
  6. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, India.
  7. Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi, India.

The laboratory has state of art facilities for:


  1. Real-time PCR based Gene Quantification, High Resolution Melt Analysis, Cluster Analysis and Genotyping Rare Polymorphisms.
  2. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based gene amplification and detection systems for mycobacterial genome analysis.
  3. Blotting Experiments.
  4. Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis.
  5. Chemiluminescence assays.
  6. Enzyme linked immunosorbent assays,
  7. T cell culture systems.
  8. Microbial culture facility,
  9. Fully equipped animal house for mice modeled experiments with facilities for irradiation and thymectomy.
  10. A central library facility to access various books and scientific journals.
  11. Computers connected with high speed WIFI internet and with basic bioinformatics software.

The laboratory has worked broadly in the areas of:

  1. Identifying molecular markers for early diagnosis of leprosy.
  2. Effectiveness of alternative drug regimens for treating drug resistance in leprosy.
  3. In-situ cytokine mRNA expression profiling during early stages of Mycobacterium leprae infection.
  4. Molecular Epidemiology studies on nasal carriage and mucosal immunity.
  5. Variable Number Tandem Repeat Analysis of Mycobacterium leprae genome to understand molecular basis for the variance in strain types.
  6. Environmental Mycobacterium leprae and
  7. Immunological Studies on Type I and Type II Reactions in leprosy.

Projects accomplished from 2000-2014:

  1. Resistance to Anti-leprosy drugs – Dapsone and Rifampicin – ICMR 2010-2013
  2. Distribution of Mycobacterium leprae VNTR Loci in Nasal vs. Slit Skin Samples from Multibacillary Leprosy Patients in Vellore District of Tamil Nadu.
  3. Significance of Nasal carriage of Mycobacterium leprae and Mitsuda response in household contacts of lepromatous patients.
  4. Real-time quantification of in-situ cytokine mRNA expression during early stages of Mycobacterium leprae infections in leprosy patients.
  5. Significance of Thiocyanate supplement towards the growth of Mycobacterium leprae.
  6. Humoral Hypercalcemia in Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Plantar Ulcers of Leprosy Patients.

Current Projects:

To identify leprosy associated Mycobacterium lepraetranscriptomic and human host immune signatures that aid as early signals for determination of type I and type II reactions in leprosy-

Funding Body: Leprosy Research Initiative

Duration: 2016-2019

Collaborative Projects:

  1. Identification and assessment of specific vaccine candidates for Leprosy – IDRI.
  2. Study of environmental Mycobacterium leprae and transmission link in leprosy- TLMTI.
  3. Selection of VNTR Markers for Mycobacterium leprae strain typing using standardized protocols. (IDEAL – The Initiative for Diagnostic & Epidemiological Assays for Leprosy)

Current Research Priorities:

  1. To evaluate the utility of molecular epidemiological tools to trace transmission patterns in leprosy.
  2. To exploit nanotechnology and biosensors technology to identify potential early diagnostic tools for leprosy.
  3. To investigate the molecular & immunopathological mechanisms underlying manifestation of reactional states in leprosy.
  4. To investigate the neurological & molecular mechanisms underlying nerve function impairment in leprosy and identify tools that interrupt Mycobacterium leprae predilection of the Schwann cells.
  5. To identify Mycobacterium leprae specific molecular signatures that confer drug resistance in leprosy.

Diagnostic Facilities:

  1. PCR based detection of Mycobacterium leprae DNA in the patient samples.
  2. PCR and DNA Sequencing Based detection of Drug Resistance to Anti-Leprosy drugs in relapse/MDT non-respondent leprosy patients

Training Programs: (Yet to be updated)

For collaborations and any additional information please contact:

Dr. Sundeep Chaitanya. V                                                                         
Research Officer                                                                                             
Molecular Biology and Immunology Division                                       
The Schieffelin Institute of Health Research &                                   
Leprosy Centre (SIH R & LC)                                                                                                       
Karigiri, Vellore,                                                                                           

Tamil Nadu, 632106, India.                                                                                                      


Office: +91 416 2274227 Extn: 2249