Trachoma: an overview

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Trachoma is the most common infectious cause of blindness worldwide. It afflicts some of the poorest regions of the globe, predominantly in Africa and Asia. The disease is initiated in early childhood by repeated infection of the ocular surface by Chlamydia trachomatis. This triggers recurrent chronic inflammatory episodes, leading to the development of conjunctival scarring. This scar tissue contracts, distorting the eyelids (entropion) causing contact between the eyelashes and the surface of the eye (trichiasis). This compromises the cornea and blinding opacification often ensues.The World Health Organization is leading a global effort to eliminate Blinding Trachoma, through the implementation of the SAFE strategy. This involves surgery for trichiasis, antibiotics for infection, facial cleanliness (hygiene promotion) and environmental improvements to reduce transmission of the organism. Where this programme has been fully implemented, it has met with some success. However, there are significant gaps in the evidence base and optimal management remains uncertain.

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