Background: Although mucosal leishmaniasis is a prominent disease, it has been studied only to a limited extent. It is classically treated with parenteral antimony or, as a last resort, amphotericin B.
Methods: We treated Bolivian mucosal leishmaniasis due to Leishmania braziliensis with the oral agent miltefosine, 2.5 mg/kg/day for 28 days, and followed-up for 12 months.
Results: Seventy-two patients were evaluable. The cure rate for the 36 patients who had "mild" disease (i.e., affecting nasal skin and nasal mucosa) was 83%. The cure rate for the 36 patients who had more extensive disease (involving the palate, pharynx, and larynx) was 58%. Patients refused to be randomized to parenteral agents, but the cure rate for an almost contemporary group who was receiving amphotericin B (45 mg/kg over 90 days) was 7 (50%) of 14.
Conclusions: In this unrandomized trial, oral miltefosine was at least as effective as heroic doses of parenteral amphotericin B. The cure rate for miltefosine was approximately equivalent to historical cure rates using parenteral pentavalent antimony for mild and extensive disease in neighboring Peru. Although gastrointestinal side reactions do occur with miltefosine, its toxicity profile is superior to that of antimony and far superior to that of amphotericin B--in part because of the inherent attractiveness of oral versus parenteral agents. Our results suggest that miltefosine should be the treatment of choice for mucosal disease in North and South America.