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Trachoma Eradication Effort May Be Nearing Success

World Health Organization initiative may help eliminate the blinding disease by the year 2020

FRIDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- Trachoma -- a keratoconjunctivitis caused by ocular infection with Chlamydia trachomatis -- is still common in many poor regions of the world. But a World Health Organization (WHO) program launched in 1998 -- the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 -- has helped place this blinding disease on the brink of extinction, according to a seminar published in the June 7 issue of The Lancet.

Heathcote R. Wright, M.D., of the Centre for Eye Research Australia in East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and colleagues conducted a Medline search for articles on trachoma and augmented their research with WHO publications and materials from their own libraries.

Although trachoma has almost been eradicated in the developed world, the investigators found that the disease is still endemic in developing countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. They estimate that active trachoma affects 84 million people worldwide and that end-stage disease (trichiasis) affects another 7.6 million people, including 1.3 million people who are blind. But the researchers note that an estimated 7 million people were thought to be blind from trachoma a decade ago.

The WHO program "advocates control of trachoma at the community level with four inter-related population-health initiatives that form the SAFE strategy: surgery for trichiasis, antibiotics for active trachoma, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvement," the authors write. "By reducing the reservoir of infection in communities with effective antimicrobial campaigns and decreasing the potential for transmission of infection with facial cleanliness campaigns, augmented with environmental health improvements, we can make trachoma history."

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