Immunological factors, but not clinical features, predict visceral leishmaniasis relapse in patients co-infected with HIV


Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) has emerged as a clinically important opportunistic infection in HIV patients, as VL/HIV co-infected patients suffer from frequent VL relapse. Here, we followed cohorts of VL patients with or without HIV co-infections in Ethiopia and collected detailed clinical and immunological data during 12 months of follow-up. By the end of the study 78.1% of VL/HIV patients, but none of the VL only patients, had relapsed. Despite clinically defined cure, VL/HIV patients maintained high parasite loads, low BMI, hepatosplenomegaly and pancytopenia throughout follow-up. During detailed immunological study throughout the follow-up period, we identified three markers associated with VL relapse: i) failure to restore antigenspecific production of IFNγ, ii) persistently low CD4+ T cell counts, and iii) high expression of PD1 on CD4+ T cells. We show that these three markers combine well in predicting VL relapse, and that all three measurements are needed for optimal predictive power. These three immunological markers can be measured in primary hospital settings in Ethiopia and can predict VL relapse after anti-leishmanial therapy. The use of our prediction model has the potential to improve disease management and patient care.

James Cotton
James Cotton
Senior Staff Scientist

My research interests are in the genomics, and particularly population genomics of parasites, particularly those that cause neglected tropical diseases