BACKGROUND: North-west Ethiopia faces the highest burden world-wide of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) and HIV co-infection. VL-HIV co-infected patients have higher (initial) parasitological failure and relapse rates than HIV-negative VL patients. Whereas secondary prophylaxis reduces the relapse rate, parasitological failure rates remain high with the available antileishmanial drugs, especially when administered as monotherapy. We aimed to determine the initial effectiveness (parasitologically-confirmed cure) of a combination of liposomal amphotericin B (AmBisome) and miltefosine for treatment of VL in HIV co-infected patients.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study at a Médecins Sans Frontières-supported health center in north-west Ethiopia. We included VL-HIV co-infected adults, treated for VL between January 2011 and August 2014, with AmBisome infusion (30 mg/kg total dose) and miltefosine orally for 28 days (100 mg/day). Proportions of initial treatment outcome categories were calculated. Predictors of initial parasitological failure and of death were determined using multivariable logistic regression. Of the 173 patients included, 170 (98.3%) were male and the median age was 32 years. The proportion of patients with primary VL (48.0%) and relapse VL (52.0%) were similar. The majority had advanced HIV disease (n = 111; 73.5%) and were on antiretroviral therapy prior to VL diagnosis (n = 106; 64.2%). Initial cure rate was 83.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 77.6-88.6); death rate 12.7% (95% CI, 8.5-18.5) and parasitological failure rate 3.5% (95% CI, 1.6-7.4). Tuberculosis co-infection at VL diagnosis was predictive of parasitological failure (adjusted odds ratio (aOR), 8.14; p = 0.02). Predictors of death were age >40 years (aOR, 5.10; p = 0.009), hemoglobin ≤6.5 g/dL (aOR, 5.20; p = 0.002) and primary VL (aOR, 8.33; p = 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Initial parasitological failure rates were very low with AmBisome and miltefosine combination therapy. This regimen seems a suitable treatment option. Knowledge of predictors of poor outcome may facilitate better management. These findings remain to be confirmed in clinical trials.