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Eliminating Trachoma in Africa: The Importance of Environmental Interventions


Subsequent to the failure of the World Health Organisation (WHO) of achieving their target to eliminate trachoma by the year 2020, the most effective strategy in eliminating trachoma must be reexamined to accomplish the new target of eradication by the year 2030. Whilst antibiotic therapy is a core foundation of this elimination strategy, another important factor is the state of the environmental conditions in trachoma endemic countries. This manuscript aimed to identify the impact of environmental improvement strategies on the prevalence of trachoma and the significance of environmental improvement alongside the use of antibiotic treatment to achieve trachoma elimination. Two independent literature searches were conducted up until the 5th of July 2021. Two main databases were used to carry out these literature searches, namely, Ovid EMBASE and Ovid MEDLINE. All of the relevant references were found using MeSH and free text terms. Key terms used were 'trachoma', 'water', 'sanitation', 'hygiene' and 'environmental Improvement'. The exclusion criteria included non-African-based studies, review papers, protocols and case reports. A total of 17 studies were included for this review. Living within a close range of a water source was significantly associated with reduced risk of trachoma infection. Water obtained from piped water sources was associated with the lowest rates of active trachoma. Studies on facial cleanliness evidenced a strong association with reduced prevalence of trachoma. Whilst the provision of latrine facilities found was significantly associated with reduced prevalence of trachoma, there was no significant difference between the use of private latrine facilities over communal latrine facilities. The use of repeated scheduled antibiotic treatments over single-use antibiotic distribution had a greater impact both short term and long term on the prevalence rates of trachoma. Nonetheless, prevalence rates increased again following the commencement of treatment. Mass antibiotic treatment has been proven to have a greater impact on lowering the prevalence of trachoma initially, but this impact is not sustainable due to the rise in prevalence rates following the completion of treatment. A holistic approach, therefore, must be implemented with evidence showing that an emphasis on longer-term environmental methods should be implemented to compliment antibiotic distribution. Prioritisation of specific interventional measures should be tailored according to local epidemiology; nonetheless, these measures form the backbone of a trachoma elimination strategy to eliminate trachoma by the year 2030.

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Journal Article
Ageed A
Khan M