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Background Reports on the occurrence and outcome of Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) in pregnant women is rare in published literature. The occurrence of VL in pregnancy is not systematically captured and cases are rarely followed-up to detect consequences of infection and treatment on the pregnant women and foetus. Methods A review of all published literature was undertaken to identify cases of VL infections among pregnant women by searching the following database: Ovid MEDLINE; Ovid Embase; Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews; Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials; World Health Organization Global Index Medicus: LILACS (Americas); IMSEAR (South-East Asia); IMEMR (Eastern Mediterranean); WPRIM (Western Pacific);; and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. Selection criteria included any clinical reports describing the disease in pregnancy or vertical transmission of the disease in humans. Articles meeting pre-specified inclusion criteria and non-primary research articles such as textbook, chapters, letters, retrospective case description, or reports of accidental inclusion in trials were also considered. Results The systematic literature search identified 272 unique articles of which 54 records were included in this review; a further 18 records were identified from additional search of the references of the included studies or from personal communication leading to a total of 72 records (71 case reports/case series; 1 retrospective cohort study; 1926–2020) describing 451 cases of VL in pregnant women. The disease was detected during pregnancy in 398 (88.2%), retrospectively confirmed after giving birth in 52 (11.5%), and the time of identification was not clear in 1 (0.2%). Of the 398 pregnant women whose infection was identified during pregnancy, 346 (86.9%) received a treatment, 3 (0.8%) were untreated, and the treatment status was not clear in the remaining 49 (12.3%). Of 346 pregnant women, Liposomal amphotericin B (L-AmB) was administered in 202 (58.4%) and pentavalent antimony (PA) in 93 (26.9%). Outcomes were reported in 176 pregnant women treated with L-AmB with 4 (2.3%) reports of maternal deaths, 5 (2.8%) miscarriages, and 2 (1.1%) foetal death/stillbirth. For PA, outcomes were reported in 88 of whom 4 (4.5%) died, 24 (27.3%) had spontaneous abortion, 2 (2.3%) had miscarriages. A total of 26 cases of confirmed, probable or suspected cases of vertical transmission were identified with a median detection time of 6 months (range: 0–18 months). Conclusions Outcomes of VL treatment during pregnancy is rarely reported and under-researched. The reported articles were mainly case reports and case series and the reported information was often incomplete. From the studies identified, it is difficult to derive a generalisable information on outcomes for pregnant women and babies, although reported data favours the usage of liposomal amphotericin B for the treatment of VL in pregnant women.

Original publication




Journal article


PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases


Public Library of Science (PLoS)

Publication Date





e0009650 - e0009650