2020 Target: Global elimination

Clinical Background: Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye that, upon repeated infection, causes the eyelids to scar and ultimately turn inward (known as trichiasis or blinding trachoma stage). Blinding trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world, accounts for approximately 3% of the world’s blindness. Small children are the reservoir of infections, leading to high infection rates among children and their overwhelmingly female caretakers. It is transmitted through contact with eye and nose secretions from infected people, but also through flies.

Epidemiology: Trachoma is responsible for the visual impairment of about 2.2 million people of whom 1.2 million are irreversibly blind. Globally, 53 countries are assessed or estimated to be endemic for blinding trachoma. Africa is the most affected continent: two-thirds of all cases of active trachoma occur in just 28 African countries, with Ethiopia, Guinea, Nigeria and South Sudan the hardest hit. India, Brazil and China are the countries with the highest burdens outside of Africa.

Burden: Lost productivity is estimated to be around $3 billion per year.

Treatment/Prevention Strategy: Trachoma elimination is based on the “SAFE” strategy (Surgery, Antibiotic treatment, Face washing and Environmental control). The antibiotic azithromycin (donated by Pfizer) is mainly used for preventative chemotherapy in this approach.

Key Organizations: In 1998, WHO formed the Global Elimination of Trachoma 2020 Alliance (GET2020), a coalition of governments, NGOs, industry and academics, with the goal of eliminating globally blinding trachoma by 2020. As a result, Pfizer and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation launched the International Trachoma Initiative to manage the donation of the drug produced by Pfizer and donated for the elimination efforts.

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