Treatment failure to intralesional sodium stibogluconate (IL-SSG) is a health challenge for cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Sri Lanka. A randomized controlled proof of principle clinical trial, with two arms (viz., radio frequency–induced heat therapy [RFHT] by a ThermoMed™ device and thermotherapy by a handheld exothermic crystallization thermotherapy for CL [HECT-CL] device) was conducted on 40 CL treatment failures to IL-SSG, from three hospitals in Tangalle, Hambantota, and Anuradhapura, from January 2017 to January 2018, followed up for 180 days post-thermotherapy with a final follow-up in February 2020. Intention-to-treat cure rates were calculated at day 90 (initial cure rate) and at day 180 (final cure rate) posttreatment. Radio frequency–induced heat therapy group: the initial cure rate was 100% (20/20) and the final cure rate was 95% (19/20), with one patient relapsing. The HECT-CL group: both the initial and final cure rates were 80% (16/20), with no relapses and one excluded from the trial. In February 2020 (1.6–3 years posttreatment), 27 traceable patients (RFHT = 16, HECT-CL = 11) remained healed. Second-degree burns were observed with RFHT in 65% (13/20), with HECT-CL in 15% (3/20), which completely resolved subsequently. The cure rates between the two treatment groups were comparable (P = 0.15). Radio frequency–induced heat therapy consumed less time and required only a single hospital visit. Handheld exothermic crystallization thermotherapy for CL is potentially usable at community settings with both being less costly than IL-SSG. This study is the first proof that thermotherapy is an efficacious and safe treatment for CL patients in Sri Lanka, complicated by treatment failure to IL-SSG.
Address correspondence to Nadira Karunaweera, Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Financial support: This study was supported by the University of Colombo research grant (AP/3/2/2016/SG/13) to Hermali Silva and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the NIH, USA, under award number R01AI099602 and U01AI136033 to Nadira Karunaweera.