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PLoS One. 2017 Oct 9;12(10):e0186117. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186117. eCollection 2017.

Efficacy of azole therapy for tegumentary leishmaniasis: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Pesquisa Clínica e Políticas Públicas em Doenças Infecto-Parasitárias-Centro de Pesquisas René Rachou-Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.



Several controlled and uncontrolled studies addressing azole antifungal drugs for cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis have been published with inconclusive results. We conducted a systematic literature review of studies evaluating the efficacy and toxicity associated with azole therapy for tegumentary leishmaniasis.


PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews and the Cochrane manual were followed, and the review methodology was registered (PROSPERO; CRD42016048668). Sources included the EMBASE, Web of Science, MEDLINE, LILACS, and IBECS databases along with a manual search of references from evaluated studies. Additional resources such as Google Scholar and were also searched. We included all studies reporting cure rate after cutaneous or mucosal leishmaniasis treatment with systemic azole drugs, regardless of their design. R software was used to estimate global rates of success and adverse events with each drug. The main outcome of interest was clinical cure, defined as complete re-epithelialization of all lesions.


A total of 37 studies involving 1259 patients that reported outcomes after fluconazole (9), ketoconazole (14) and itraconazole (15) treatments were included. Only 14 (38%) were randomized controlled trials (RCT). The pooled azole final efficacy rate was 64% (CI95%: 57-70%) for all studies and 60% (CI95%: 50-70%) (p = 0.41) if only RCTs studies were considered. Twenty-four studies were conducted in the Old World and 13 studies in the Americas. The final efficacy rate according to New and Old World were 62% (CI95%: 43-77%) and 66% (CI95%: 58-73%), respectively. The final efficacy rate of azoles according to species were 89% (CI95%: 50-98%) for L. mexicana; 88% for L. infantum (CI95%: 27-99%); 80% for L. donovani; 53% (CI95%: 29-76%) for L. major; 49% for L. braziliensis (CI95%: 21-78%); and 15% (CI95%: 1-84%) for L. tropica. The cure rates were similar among the fluconazole, ketoconazole and itraconazole group arms (p = 0.89), specifically 61% (CI95%: 48-72%), 64% (CI95%: 44-80%) 65% (CI95%: 56-72%), respectively. Adverse events during fluconazole, itraconazole and ketoconazole therapy were reported in 7% (CI95%: 3-14%), 12% (CI95% 8-19%) and 13% (CI95%: 6-29%) of treated patients, respectively, without difference among them (p = 0.35). This systematic review included studies with small samples and both non-comparative and non-randomized studies and the main limitation was the low quality of the available studies.


Available evidence suggests that fluconazole, ketoconazole and itraconazole have similar and modest efficacy rates for tegumentary leishmaniasis treatment. There is insufficient evidence to support the exclusive use of azole therapy as a single agent for leishmaniasis treatment.

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