BACKGROUND: Post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL) is a common dermatological complication following successful treatment of Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) caused by Leishmania donovani. PKDL presents as macular, papular, nodular or mixed skin rash on sun-exposed body parts. Patients are not ill unless there are complications due to mucosal involvement or ulceration. As PKDL in East Africa is typically self-healing, and treatment is long and with significant adverse events, only severe and complicated cases are treated. Studies to determine optimal treatment of PKDL are rare and based on small cohorts. Since 1989, Médecins Sans Frontières is treating severe PKDL within VL treatment programmes in South Sudan. Treatment was initially with sodium stibogluconate (SSG) monotherapy and since 2002 with a combination of SSG and paromomycin (PM). SSG monotherapy (20 mg/kg/day for a minimum of 30 days) was provided in primary health units, and the combination of PM (15 mg sulphate/kg/day for 17 days) plus SSG (30 mg/kg/day for a minimum of 17 days) was provided in secondary health facilities.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: By retrospective analysis of routinely collected programme data we compared the effectiveness (outcome and treatment duration) of both regimens. Between 2002 and 2008, 422 patients with severe PKDL were treated; 343 received SSG and 79 SSG/PM combination. The cure rate was significantly better with combination treatment when compared to monotherapy (97% vs. 90%; odds ratio [OR], 7.6; p = 0.02), treatment duration was shorter (mean 34 days vs. 42 days; p = 0.005), and defaulter rate was lower (3% vs. 9%; OR, 0.3; p = 0.03). There was no significant difference in death rate (0% vs. 1%; p = 0.5).
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We found that SSG/PM combination therapy resulted in more favourable outcomes than SSG monotherapy. An additional advantage is the lower cost of the combination therapy, due to the shorter treatment duration. A combination of SSG and PM is therefore a suitable option for the treatment of PKDL in East Africa.