A new research project in Ethiopia is evaluating a diagnostic test for determining whether trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness, has been eliminated within a population.
The global effort to eliminate trachoma by 2020 includes mass drug administration (MDA) with antibiotic donated by Pfizer. Detecting transmission of the disease after MDA stops is seen as one of the major scientific challenges for the global program.
Researchers will evaluate a blood test for detecting antibodies that may be indicative of exposure to trachoma infection. A positive antibody test could indicate transmission is still occurring in areas where MDA have taken place. The test will be evaluated in children since they are the most vulnerable to trachoma infection.
“This new tool should help Ethiopia and other trachoma-endemic countries assess the impact and success of their elimination programs,” said Pat Lammie, PhD, chief scientist at the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center.
Institutions involved with the project include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Berhan Public Health and Eye Care Consultancy, and Adama Regional Public Health Lab. The research project will take place in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region.
Ethiopia has the world’s highest prevalence of trachoma. Over the past 15 years, The Task Force’s International Trachoma Initiative has shipped more than 277 million doses of the antibiotic Zithromax to Ethiopia for MDA.
The research project is supported by a $12.5-million grant to the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center from the U.K. Department of International Development.