Recent Development of Visceral Leishmaniasis Treatments: Successes, Pitfalls, and Perspectives

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2018 Aug 29;31(4):e00048-18. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00048-18. Print 2018 Oct.


Research in visceral leishmaniasis in the last decade has been focused on how better to use the existing medicines as monotherapy or in combination. Systematic research by geographical regions has shown that a universal treatment is far from today's reality. Substantial progress has been made in the elimination of kala-azar in South Asia, with a clear strategy on first- and second-line therapy options of single-dose liposomal amphotericin B and a combination of paromomycin and miltefosine, respectively, among other interventions. In Eastern Africa, sodium stibogluconate (SSG) and paromomycin in combination offer an advantage compared to the previous SSG monotherapy, although not exempted of limitations, as this therapy requires 17 days of painful double injections and bears the risk of SSG-related cardiotoxicity. In this region, attempts to improve the combination therapy have been unsuccessful. However, pharmacokinetic studies have led to a better understanding of underlying mechanisms, like the underexposure of children to miltefosine treatment, and an improved regimen using an allometric dosage. Given this global scenario of progress and pitfalls, we here review what steps need to be taken with existing medicines and highlight the urgent need for oral drugs. Furthermore, it should be noted that six candidates belonging to five new chemical classes are reaching phase I, ensuring an optimistic near future.

Keywords: new chemical entities; treatment; visceral leishmaniasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Drug Discovery / trends*
  • Humans
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / drug therapy*


  • Antiprotozoal Agents