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To assess whether povidone-iodine provided any benefit over and above a standard regimen of antibiotic therapy for the treatment of corneal ulcers.All patients diagnosed with corneal ulcers presenting for care at a primary eye care clinic in rural Nepal were randomised to a standard protocol of antibiotic therapy versus standard therapy plus 2.5% povidone-iodine every 2 hours for 2 weeks. The main outcomes were corrected visual acuity and presence, size, and position of corneal scarring in the affected eye at 2–4 months following treatment initiation.358 patients were randomised and 81% were examined at follow up. The two groups were comparable before treatment. At follow up, 3.9% in the standard therapy and 6.9% in the povidone-iodine group had corrected visual acuity worse than 20/400 (relative risk (RR) 1.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.62 to 5.03). 9.4% in the standard therapy and 13.1% in the povidone-iodine group had corrected visual acuity worse than 20/60 (RR 1.39, 95% CI 0.71 to 2.77), and 17.0% and 18.8% had scars in the visual axis in each of these groups, respectively (RR 1.11, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.82).A small proportion of patients with corneal ulceration treated in this setting had poor visual outcomes. The addition of povidone-iodine to standard antibiotic therapy did not improve visual outcomes, although this design was unable to assess whether povidone-iodine on its own would have resulted in comparable visual outcomes to that of standard therapy.