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Short-Course, Low-Dose Amphotericin B Lipid Complex Therapy for Visceral Leishmaniasis Unresponsive to Antimony

Shyam Sundar, MD; Nutan K. Agrawal, MD; Prabhat R. Sinha, MD; Gary S. Horwith, MD; and Henry W. Murray, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India; The Liposome Co., Princeton, New Jersey; and Cornell University Medical Center, New York, New York. Requests for Reprints: Henry W. Murray, MD, Department of Medicine, The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Box 130, 525 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10021. Current Author Addresses: Drs. Sundar, Agrawal, and Sinha: Banaras Hindu University, Institute of Medical Sciences, Department of Medicine, Varanasi 221 005, India.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1997;127(2):133-137. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-127-2-199707150-00007
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Background: Visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar) is a world-wide, disseminated intracellular protozoal infection for which prolonged, conventional therapy with pentavalent antimony has become increasingly less effective.

Objective: To determine the efficacy and minimal effective dose of short-course therapy with amphotericin B lipid complex in visceral leishmaniasis.

Design: A randomized, open-label study.

Setting: Inpatient kala-azar treatment unit in the state of Bihar in northeast India, where visceral leishmaniasis is endemic.

Patients: 60 patients with active infection who had not responded to or who had relapse after receiving conventional (>30 days) treatment with pentavalent antimony.

Intervention: Intravenous amphotericin B lipid complex was given once daily for 5 consecutive days by 2-hour infusion. Patients were randomly assigned to receive 1, 2, or 3 mg/kg of body weight per day (total doses of 5, 10, or 15 mg/kg, respectively).

Measurements: Clinical and parasitologic responses (the latter were measured by parasite density score of the splenic aspirate) were determined 14 days after treatment. Definitive responses were assessed 6 months after treatment according to clinical outcomes and findings on examination of bone marrow aspirate.

Results: All 60 patients responded to 5 days of treatment. Fourteen days after therapy, all patients had parasite-free splenic aspirates and were considered to have an apparent clinical and parasitologic response. Six months after therapy, definitive responses were documented in 16 of 19 (84% [95% CI, 60% to 97%]), 18 of 20 (90% [CI, 68% to 99%]), and 21 of 21 (100% [CI, 84% to 100%]) patients who received total doses of 5, 10, and 15 mg/kg, respectively.

Conclusion: Short-course therapy with low-dose amphotericin B lipid complex is effective for visceral leishmaniasis and is an important therapeutic alternative in the management of this serious intracellular protozoal infection.


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Figure 1.
Photomicrograph of a pretreatment splenic aspirate smear showing characteristic intracellular Leishmania amastigotes within splenic mononuclear phagocytes.

Extracellular organisms were probably released during preparation of the smear (Giemsa stain; original magnification, x630).

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