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SYMPOSIUM - LIESHMANIASIS
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 151-158

Treatment of visceral leishmaniasis


1 Hospital for Tropical Diseases, University College London Hospital, United Kingdom
2 Hospital for Tropical Diseases, University College London Hospital; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
D N Lockwood
Hospital for Tropical Diseases, University College London Hospital; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0974-777X.62883

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The available treatment options for visceral leishmaniasis (VL) have problems relating to efficacy, adverse effects and cost, making treatment a complex issue. We review the evidence relating to the different methods of treatment in relation to - efficacy and toxicity of the drugs in different areas of the world; ability to monitor side effects, length of treatment; ability of patients to pay for and stay safe during treatment, ability of the healthcare services to give intramuscular, intravenous or oral therapy; the sex and child-bearing potential of the patient and the immune status of the patient. The high mortality of untreated/ poorly treated VL infection makes the decisions paramount, but a unified and coordinated response by each area is likely to be more effective and informative to future policies than an ad hoc response. For patients in resource-rich countries, liposomal amphotericin B appears to be the optimal treatment. In South Asia, miltefosine is being used; the combination of single dose liposomal amphotericin B and short course miltefosine looks encouraging but has the problem of potential reproductive toxicities in females. In Africa, the evidence to switch from SSG is not yet compelling. The need to monitor and plan for evolving drug failure, secondary to leishmania parasite resistance, is paramount. With a few drugs the options may be limited; however, we await key ongoing trials in both Africa and India to explore the effects of combination treatment. If safe and reliable combinations are revealed by the ongoing studies, it is far from clear as to whether this will avoid leishmania parasite resistance. The development of new drugs to add to the armamentarium is paramount. Lessons can be learnt from the management of diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria in terms of planning the switch to combination treatment. As important as establishing the best choice for specific antileishmanial agent is ensuring treatment centers, which can best manage the problems encountered during treatment, specifically malnutrition, bleeding, intercurrent infections, drug side effects and detecting and treating underlying immunosuppression.


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2008 Journal of Global Infectious Diseases | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
Online since 10th December, 2008