• A Screen-and-Treat Strategy Targeting Visceral Leishmaniasis in HIV-Infected Individuals in Endemic East African Countries: The Way Forward?

      van Griensven, Johan; Diro, Ermias; Lopez-Velez, Rogelio; Ritmeijer, Koert; Boelaert, Marleen; Zijlstra, Ed E; Hailu, Asrat; Lynen, Lutgarde (Public Library of Science, 2014-08-07)
      In the wake of the HIV epidemic, visceral leishmaniasis (VL), a disseminated protozoan infection caused by the Leishmania donovani complex, has been re-emerging, particularly in North Ethiopia where up to 40% of patients with VL are co-infected with HIV. Management of VL in HIV co-infection is complicated by increased drug toxicity, and high treatment failure and relapse rates with all currently available drugs, despite initiation of antiretroviral treatment. Tackling L. donovani infection before disease onset would thus be a logical approach. A screen-and-treat approach targeting latent or the early stage of infection has successfully been implemented in other HIV-associated opportunistic infections. While conceptually attractive in the context of VL-HIV, the basic understanding and evidence underpinning such an approach is currently lacking. Prospective cohort studies will have to be conducted to quantify the risk of VL in different risk groups and across CD4 cell count levels. This will allow developing clinical prognostic tools, integrating clinical, HIV and Leishmania infection markers. Interventional studies will be needed to evaluate prophylactic or pre-emptive treatment strategies for those at risk, ideally relying on an oral (combination) regimen. Issues like tolerability, emergence of resistance and drug interactions will require due attention. The need for maintenance therapy will have to be assessed. Based on the risk-benefit data, VL risk cut-offs will have to be identified to target treatment to those most likely to benefit. Such a strategy should be complemented with early initiation of antiretroviral treatment and other strategies to prevent HIV and Leishmania infection.
    • Visceral Leishmaniasis and HIV Coinfection in East Africa

      Diro, Ermias; Lynen, Lutgarde; Ritmeijer, Koert; Boelaert, Marleen; Hailu, Asrat; van Griensven, Johan (2014-06-26)
      Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) is an important protozoan opportunistic disease in HIV patients in endemic areas. East Africa is second to the Indian subcontinent in the global VL caseload and first in VL-HIV coinfection rate. Because of the alteration in the disease course, the diagnostic challenges, and the poor treatment responses, VL with HIV coinfection has become a very serious challenge in East Africa today. Field experience with the use of liposomal amphotericin B in combination with miltefosine, followed by secondary prophylaxis and antiretroviral drugs, looks promising. However, this needs to be confirmed through clinical trials. Better diagnostic and follow-up methods for relapse and prediction of relapse should also be looked for. Basic research to understand the immunological interaction of the two infections may ultimately help to improve the management of the coinfection.
    • Visceral Leishmaniasis as an AIDS Defining Condition: Towards Consistency across WHO Guidelines

      van Griensven, Johan; Ritmeijer, Koert; Lynen, Lutgarde; Diro, Ermias (2014-07-17)