Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is on the verge of being eliminated as a public health problem in the Indian subcontinent. Although Post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL) is recognized as an important reservoir of transmission, we hypothesized that VL patients co-infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) may also be important reservoirs of sustained leishmania transmission. We therefore investigated to what extent cases of PKDL or VL-HIV are associated with VL incidence at the village level in Bihar, India.
VL, VL-HIV, and PKDL case data from six districts within the highly VL-endemic state of Bihar, India were collected through the Kala-Azar Management Information System for the years 2014-2019. Multivariate analysis was done using negative binomial regression controlling for year as a fixed effect and block (subdistrict) as a random effect.
Presence of VL-HIV+ and PKDL cases were both associated with a more than twofold increase in VL incidence at village level, with Incidence Rate Ratios (IRR) of 2.16 (95% CI 1.81-2.58) and 2.37 (95% CI 2.01-2.81) for VL-HIV+ and PKDL cases respectively. A sensitivity analysis showed the strength of the association to be similar in each of the six included subdistricts.
These findings indicate the importance of VL-HIV+ patients as infectious reservoirs for Leishmania, and suggest that they represent a threat equivalent to PKDL patients towards the VL elimination initiative on the Indian subcontinent, therefore warranting a similar focus.
- visceral leishmaniasis
- VL-HIV coinfection
- post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis
- Indian subcontinent