In December 2011 the University of California San Francisco published an article on its website about a recent study into the effects of two different treatment regimes for trachoma. Trachoma is a bacterial infection that occurs in the eyes and is easily spread by people or objects that the infected come in contact with. Though less common in most parts of the world today it is still a very serious threat to healthy vision in some nations, Ethiopia in particular.
The results of this study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, offer hope for tightly or underfunded health programs in impoverished areas of the world. Because of the cost of medications such as antibiotics waste of any kind is particularly detrimental to the end effects of these programs. Bruce Gaynor, MD was corresponding author of the paper which documented the results of the study, the lead author being Teshome Gebre, PhD. The study itself was the work of physicians and researchers from a number of U.S. and global organizations and involved treatments of villagers in Ethiopia residing in 24 communities. The aim of the study was to observe the rate of new infections in these communities with two different treatment frequencies. What the researchers found was remarkable and may quickly change the way that azithromycin is dosed when treating trachoma and preempting infections in high-risk communities like the ones studied in Ethiopia. A dramatic decrease in new infections occurred in the twelve communities that received azithromycin once during a twelve month period, results very similar to those of the patients in the other twelve communities where a dose was administered every six months.
For programs that have limited supplies of azithromycin this study may lead to greater numbers of people getting the treatment needed to reduce the chances of infection. In the countries where trachoma is still very common this kind of increase in treatments has the potential to save millions of people from blindness each year. Because no signs of resistance of trachoma to azithromycin have been found as of yet there may also now be a greater chance of fighting the bacteria down to levels found in other economically advantaged countries.
Readers may be asking by this point how they can help to make this discovery more meaningful to the communities where blindness still occurs each year in people infected with trachoma. Companies such as Pfizer are actively engaged in building awareness of this serious problem and are doing a big part of the fund raising and donations of medicine. With the partnership of organizations like the International Trachoma Initiative (iTi) work is already being done each year to help the communities where trachoma is so prevalent. Anyone who wishes to help with cash donations can do so through The Task Force for Global Health’s donation webpage. Under the program designation donors should select “Internat’l Trachoma Initiative”. Normally HealthyFindings.com does not provide direct links to other websites because it is so difficult to ensure that links are always in working order. But in the case of this very important fund raising program we are making an exception. To reach the donation page click here.
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