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Breakthrough in treatment to prevent blindness
Date:12/21/2011

A UCSF study shows a popular treatment for a potentially blinding eye infection is just as effective if given every six months versus annually. This randomized study on trachoma, the leading cause of infection-caused blindness in the world, could potentially treat twice the number of patients using the same amount of medication.

"The idea is we can do more with less," said Bruce Gaynor, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology. "We are trying to get as much out of the medicine as we can because of the cost and the repercussions of mass treatments."

In a paper published this month in The Lancet, researchers conducted a cluster-randomized trial, using an antibiotic called azithromycin to treat trachoma in Ethiopia, which has among the highest prevalence in the world. They picked 24 communities and randomized the two treatment options: 12 villages were given azithromycin every six months and the other 12 were treated every 12 months.

"What we found was the prevalence of trachoma is very high at baseline. Forty to 50 percent of the children in these communities have this condition," Gaynor said. "They are the most susceptible and it can quickly spread from person to person by direct or even indirect contact."

Researchers tracked both groups and found the prevalence of infection decreased dramatically.

"We found that from as high as 40 percent, the prevalence of trachoma went way down, even eliminated in some villages regardless of whether it was treated in an annual way or a biannual way," Gaynor said. "You can genuinely get same with less."

Their finding is significant because of how easily the disease spreads. Trachoma can be transmitted through touching one's eyes or nose after being in close contact with someone who is infected. It can also be spread through a towel or an article of clothing from a person who has trachoma. Even fli
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Contact: Leland Kim
leland.kim@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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