Visceral leishmaniasis-HIV coinfection as a predictor of increased Leishmania transmission at the village level in Bihar, India

Kristien Cloots, Pia Marino, Sakib Burza, Naresh Gill, Marleen Boelaert, Epco Hasker

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number604117
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • visceral leishmaniasis
  • VL-HIV coinfection
  • post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis
  • transmission
  • elimination
  • Indian subcontinent


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