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- The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene,
Elimination of Kala-Azar from the Southeast Asia Region
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), popularly known as kala‐azar, is essentially a disease of poverty. Kala‐azar is caused by a parasite, Leishmania donovani. Recent review indicates that worldwide 98 countries are endemic for kala‐azar. Approximately 0.2–0.4 million new VL cases occur each year worldwide. More than 90% of global VL cases occur in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, South Sudan, and Sudan. This trend is slowly changing due to the progress in kala‐azar elimination in southeast Asia, where Bangladesh has reported an average of some 600 new cases in 2014−2015. With the advancement in our knowledge about the disease and development of tools to diagnose and treat VL, it was considered that elimination of kala‐azar was possible from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. The three countries signed a memorandum of understanding in 2005 for collaboration. Miltefosine is the first ever oral drug developed to treat VL, which was later replaced by lipid amphotericin B. The main components of the strategy are early diagnosis using rK39 strip test and complete treatment utilizing miltefosine for 28 days. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or pyrethroids were deployed for vector control. There was much to be desired for better performance of the vector control activity. Pharmacovigilance and monitoring of drug resistance were the weakest part of the program. In the post‐elimination phase, surveillance reinforced by active case finding will of a crucial factor for sustainability of the elimination. A strong political will is required to ensure elimination of kala‐azar from the Indian subcontinent and its sustainability in the post‐elimination phase.