Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the development of new drugs for the treatment of leishmaniasis. This has spurred the need for pharmacodynamic markers to monitor and compare therapies specifically for visceral leishmaniasis, in which the primary recrudescence of parasites is a particularly long-term event that remains difficult to predict. We performed a systematic review of studies evaluating biomarkers in human patients with visceral, cutaneous, and post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis, which yielded a total of 170 studies in which 53 potential pharmacodynamic biomarkers were identified. In conclusion, the large majority of these biomarkers constituted universal indirect markers of activation and subsequent waning of cellular immunity and therefore lacked specificity. Macrophage-related markers demonstrate favorable sensitivity and times to normalcy, but more evidence is required to establish a link between these markers and clinical outcome. Most promising are the markers directly related to the parasite burden, but future effort should be focused on optimization of molecular or antigenic targets to increase the sensitivity of these markers. In general, future research should focus on the longitudinal evaluation of the pharmacodynamic biomarkers during treatment, with an emphasis on the correlation of studied biomarkers and clinical parameters.
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