Current opinion in infectious diseases, 2002; 15 (5) doi:
Affiliation: University of California, Riverside, United States
Abstract: PURPOSE OF REVIEW: A recently initiated major effort to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem is discussed.
RECENT FINDINGS: Mass (community-wide) treatment with a short course of oral azithromycin has been shown to be at least as effective as long courses (42 doses over a 6-week period) of topical tetracycline in reducing clinically active trachoma and the prevalence of chlamydial infection. The beneficial effects last for more than a year, in contrast to the short-lived results typically seen after previous control programs that used topical therapy. Azithromycin is a key element in the integrated approach towards eliminating blinding trachoma summarized as the 'SAFE' strategy (surgery for deformed eyelids; antibiotic treatment of whole communities with azithromycin, to control infection; face washing and improved hygiene of young children; and environmental improvements, particularly the provision of water and latrines). The first regional application of this strategy has shown dramatic results, producing a reduction in trachoma activity of more than 70% in Morocco.
SUMMARY: The goal of eliminating blinding trachoma may be reachable. Further research is needed to determine how best to use azithromycin and which environmental improvements will be most effective. The important questions are as follows: how often antibiotic treatment programs will be required in the endemic areas; how best to evaluate the effects of treatment; and when (and perhaps whom) do we retreat.
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