Objective: To compare the clinical and laboratory features of visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar) in HIV-infected and non-infected subjects, and to determine the presence of Leishmania amastigotes in circulating leukocytes using peripheral blood smears.
Patients: Twenty-eight HIV-infected and six HIV-negative adult patients diagnosed as having kala-azar presenting at one institution over a 7-year period.
Methods: Retrospective review of clinical charts and re-examination of peripheral blood smears.
Results: There were no significant differences in the clinical presentation and laboratory features of HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients. However, Leishmania amastigotes were observed in circulating leukocytes in eight out of the 17 available peripheral blood smears (15 from HIV-infected patients). All eight individuals presenting with Leishmania in peripheral blood leukocytes were HIV-positive.
Conclusions: Direct visualization of Leishmania amastigotes in leukocytes on peripheral blood smears enabled the diagnosis of kala-azar in a high proportion [eight out of 15 (53%)] of our HIV-infected patients.