Background: The changes that HIV coinfection can induce in clinical symptoms, response to treatment and prognosis of visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) are not well known.
Method: We retrospectively describe the characteristics of VL in patients with and without HIV infection, between 1988-1998.
Results: Fifty episodes of VL were diagnosed in 40 patients. Nineteen (47.5%) were HIV coinfected, 57.8% of them have had an aids defining illness, and the median of CD4+ lymphocytes was 50/mm3. Clinical and laboratory data were similar to patients non HIV infected, except for lower levels of LDH (437 vs 578 U/ml; p = 0.02) and total lymphocytes (665 vs 1.500/mm3; p = 0.004) and higher levels of hemoglobin (9.8 vs 8.7 gr/dl; p = 0.01) and ESR (85 vs 44 mm; p = 0.01). The first episode of VL was diagnosed in 87.5% patients through bone marrow aspirate, and the other cases were diagnosed by biopsies of gum (2), lymph node (1) or liver (1). One patient was diagnosed clinically: he had a positive serology and a good response to antileishmanial therapy. Treatment failed in nine patients (22.5%), 7 HIV-coinfected. Eight patients died (20%), 6 HIV-coinfected. Five deaths were directly attributed to VL. Six coinfected patients (31.5%) relapsed and only one (4.7%) in the other group.
Conclusions: We did not find major differences in clinical manifestations or laboratory data between the two groups. Biopsies of several tissues can be particularly helpful for diagnosis in immunocompromised patients with negative bone marrow aspirates. Failures, mortality and relapses are more common in HIV infected patients. VL coinfection usually affects HIV infected patients when they develop severe immunodepression.