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One-Time Antibiotic Prevents Infection-Linked Blindness

Trichiasis is a major cause of vision loss in developing world, researchers say

FRIDAY, March 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say a single dose of antibiotic can prevent blindness that can occur when eyelashes turn inward after bacterial infection.

The condition, called trichiasis, is the leading cause of infection-linked vision loss in the developing world.

In trichiasis, in-turned eyelashes scrape against the eye, causing a scarring of the cornea. The disease is caused by repeated episodes of a bacterial infection in the eye called trachoma, which is common in rural areas of developing nations.

Surgery can return the in-turned eyelashes to their normal position but, in 16 percent to 50 percent of cases, the eyelashes turn back into the eye within a few years after surgery.

But researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore found that only 10 percent of people who received a single oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin had their eyelid turn inward again within a year after surgery. This was a third less than people who received six weeks of twice daily treatment with the antibiotic ointment tetracycline, the current method of treatment after trichiasis surgery.

The findings appear in the March issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

"We are delighted with the results of this study," lead researcher Sheila West, of the Dana Center for Preventative Ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"The results of the study have major implications for improving outcomes of trichiasis surgery. The use of a single dose of azithromycin is a relatively straightforward and simple procedure to implement, and in many countries the drug is provided through a free donation program," West said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about trachoma.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, March 13, 2006
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