Egypt Looks to Eliminate an Age-Old Plague

Trachoma was first documented on an ancient Egyptian scroll dating back to 2000 BC. Now, more than 4,000 years later, the country is launching a comprehensive program to finally eliminate the bacterial eye disease from the country.

In October, representatives from The Task Force’s International Trachoma Initaitive (ITI) met with the country’s Ministry of Health to discuss support for mass drug administration (MDA) in the country beginning in 2017 to eliminate the disease. ITI manages Pfizer’s donation of antibiotic which is used in MDA for the elimination of trachoma.

Originally called Egyptian Opthalmia, trachoma has a centuries-old connection to Egypt. In the early 1900s, the first grading system for trachoma infection, which was later adopted by the World Health Organization, was developed in Egypt. In the 1960s, the country undertook a large-scale elimination program in response to several areas of the country with high rates of prevalence. The Ministry of Health declared the country trachoma free in the 1980s. However, recent research later supported by subsequent prevalence surveys found that the disease is still present at high levels in four districts in the country.

“These findings validated the need for restarting the program to eliminate trachoma from Egypt,” said ITI Director Paul Emerson, PhD. “I am confident that the country can eliminate the disease within a few years and relegate this age-old plague to the dustbin of history.”

Trachoma Elimination Program Marks Milestone

In November, ITI marked a significant milestone when it reached 100 million doses of the antibiotic  Zithromax shipped in 2016, more than the first ten years of the program combined. By reaching the target of shipping over 100 million doses this year, the donation program is now meeting the global need for antibiotic in order to eliminate the disease.

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