Abstract

The clinical efficacy of immunotherapy for localized American cutaneous leishmaniasis with a combination of heat-killed Leishmania mexicana amazonensis promastigotes and viable BCG (bacille Calmette Guérin) has been compared with meglumine antimoniate chemotherapy and with BCG alone in a controlled clinical study in 217 patients. The results in the first two groups were comparable, with > 90% clinical cures with an average time of 16–18 w required for healing. The cure rate was considerably lower (42%) and more prolonged in the group receiving BCG alone. Secondary effects were observed in <5% of the patients receiving combined immunotherapy or BCG alone. In contrast, 49% of the patients receiving chemotherapy showed side effects. High therapeutic efficacy was also observed using combined immunotherapy in patients with intermediate and diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis who were previously unresponsive to chemotherapy. Cure or clinical improvement was seen in all 11 patients with intermediate forms of the disease, and marked clinical improvement was observed in 9 of 10 patients with diffuse disease. The results on the efficacy of the combined vaccine in immunotherapy for American cutaneous leishmaniasis provide a strong rationale for studying its effectiveness in prophylactic trials.

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