Management of visceral leishmaniasis in rural primary health care services in Bihar, India
In 2005 a visceral leishmaniasis (VL) elimination initiative was launched on the Indian subcontinent, with early diagnosis based on a rapid diagnostic test and treatment with the oral drug miltefosine as its main strategy. Several recent studies have signaled underreporting of VL cases in the region. Information on treatment outcomes is scanty. Our aim was to document VL case management by the primary health care services in India. Methods
We took a random sample of all VL patients registered in rural primary health care (PHC) facilities of Muzaffarpur district, Bihar, India during 2008. Patients were traced at home for an interview and their records were reviewed. We recorded patient and doctor delay, treatment regimens, treatment outcomes and costs incurred by patients. Results
We could review records of all 150 patients sampled and interview 139 patients or their guardian. Most patients (81%) had first presented to unqualified practitioners; median delay before reaching the appropriate primary healthcare facility was 40 days (IQR 31–59 days). Existing networks of village health workers were under-used. 48% of VL patients were treated with antimonials; 40% of those needed a second treatment course. Median direct expenditure by patients was 4000 rupees per episode (IQR 2695–5563 rupees), equivalent to almost 2 months of household income. Conclusion
In 2008 still critical flaws remained in VL case management in the primary health care services in Bihar: obsolete use of antimonials with high failure rates and long patient delay. To meet the target of the VL elimination, more active case detection strategies are needed, and village health worker networks could be more involved. Costs to patients remain an obstacle to early case finding.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Institute of Medical Sciences Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India 2: Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit, Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium
Publication date: July 1, 2010